Understanding the Benefits of Relaxing Environmental Sounds

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM


Using relaxing environmental sounds for health benefitsThe sounds of nature tend to be lost in our modern lives. It seems as though all we do is drive around and travel from place to place, thinking of nothing but our responsibilities and tasks. Recent research suggests that listening to relaxing environmental sounds can help to calm our minds as well as elicit a calming effect throughout our bodies.

This phenomenon takes place for numerous reasons starting with our initial exposure to stress and extends to the inevitable physical response during the latter stages of the stress process.

Relevant Studies on Relaxing Environmental Sounds

There was a recent study completed at the University of Sussex which was put together with the aim of determining the relationship between nature and stress. The results were quite interesting as they found that when a person takes a long walk on the beach, listens to birds, or merely has the sound of flowing water nearby; there are actually physical changes to the body.

This new information suggests a relationship between relaxing environmental sounds and real health benefits. This is exciting news indeed. There are several different ways through which society suggests we cope with our stress and there is no shortage of poor ideas. Any natural medicine approach to aiding in the stress recovery process usually has lower risk as well as the lower potential drawbacks when implemented into your routine.

Nature and Stress

To come to their conclusions, the collaboration between artists and physicians studied the impact of sounds recorded from artificial and natural environments and corresponding levels of brain activity. When artificial sounds were played, there was a tendency for the brain to show an inward-directed attention focus which is common in states of anxiety, high stress, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

Interestingly enough, when natural sounds were played to the same participants, there was a different increase in nervous system activity. This type of activity is usually associated with relaxation as well as a higher propensity to perform well with external attentional monitoring tasks.

relaxing environmental sounds to help calm the bodyAlong with this evidence for the benefits of relaxing environmental sounds, another important variable came forward during the study. This variable was the fact that those who showed the highest levels of stress prior to the introduction of natural sounds tended to experience the greatest levels of calming effect when they were introduced. This would lead one to believe that using sound therapy to help you recover from stress is not only beneficial but progressively more so the worse your condition is.

Even though there is compelling evidence in this study to suggest that this type of program could work well for everyone experiencing high levels of stress, it should be noted that each individual is different and that there isn’t a solution that will necessarily work for everyone. If you have any questions about whether this is the right approach for you, please contact your healthcare provider before making any changes to your routine.

For some, stronger measures will have to be put in place to ameliorate their stress levels. All of these things being considered, it is worth taking the time to look into whether the use of relaxing environmental sounds could be helpful for your personal stress levels.

Stress Response Relief with Relaxing Environmental Sounds

When considering how using relaxing environmental sounds can help you recover from stress, it’s necessary to understand the process through which our bodies react to stressors. The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response carries the burden of stress reaction and mitigation throughout our bodies. This system is triggered whenever a threat has been detected by the brain and readiness is deemed prudent to keep us safe.

The problems begin to occur when the NEM Stress Response is activated on a frequent basis and the body is unable to recover correctly or sufficiently before more stress is incurred. The neuroaffective​ circuit of the NEM stress response is regulated by the central nervous system, autonomic nervous system, and gastrointestinal system. When stressed, the neuroaffective​ circuit is balanced out by various neurotransmitters.

The initial neurotransmitter response that takes place can be affected by numerous stimuli, both internal and external. Someone who is attempting to lower their burden of stress needs to take into consideration​ the different ways that their personal stress response is triggered and set their goals accordingly.

Once you can become more aware and pinpoint the direction that the stress is arriving, you can begin to take steps to lessen the introduction of stress in the first place.

This can be a difficult task to complete and some people are never quite able to ascertain from where their stress derives. If this is you, don’t be overly concerned with ways that you can pinpoint the trigger as that can be particularly difficult to do when you are experiencing stress.

Start listening to relaxing environmental sounds and improve your healthOne of the first things you can do is begin a program where you listen to relaxing environmental sounds and see if that has positive effects on your overall stress burden. As the study shows, soothing natural sounds have the ability to modulate your nervous system and thus your neuroaffective​ circuit.

Everyone will have different reactions to the things that they try and everything works differently depending on the situation. You may find that this is not a terribly effective way to reduce your stress and you may find that it’s something you wish you had implemented years ago.

Either way, the beauty of implementing a technique of stress reduction like relaxing environmental sounds is that there aren’t a lot of costs involved with giving the opportunity a try. There are sound recordings online that you can try for free if you can’t get outside and if you’re fortunate enough to be able to go out into nature, the real thing is usually the best.

Using Nature to Combat Adrenal Fatigue

When you are experiencing chronic stress over a long period of time, a common issue is Adrenal Fatigue (AF). Suffering from AF can have several accompanying complications that often have a cyclical effect, making the stress that caused it even worse. People develop AF in a variety of ways but the most common are due to high levels of stress that cause a large workload to fall onto the adrenal glands.

There are steps you can take to lower this workload on the adrenal glands and even fight back against AF when you begin to use a mind-body approach to lower your stress levels. Using relaxing environmental sounds is a great way to begin this type of method of stress reduction.

Not only does the implementation of sound therapy help to directly lower stress levels and thus help to reduce AF, it also will help you relax because you’re taking steps in a direction to mindfully reduce your stress.

The variable of mindfulness in stress recovery is often overlooked but very important in the journey to better well-being. When you are actively taking steps to improve the condition of your health that will cause you to experience therapeutic calmness and stress reduction by itself. This is great because it contributes to a cumulative effect for AF recovery.

The Future of Sound Therapy

Even though there isn’t a complete understanding of how artificial stimuli can affect change for our health, there is reason to believe that because the benefits of natural sound are so compelling, there can also be a bright future for designed sound therapy.

Though this is a relatively new field, the cooperation between artists and the scientific community to see how people may be able to better recover from stress through film, or even multimedia, is exciting.

There is no single solution for most individuals who are attempting to recover from stress or AF but sound is an interesting first step. For now, we must all be content with the progression that science has made to point us in the direction of natural sound.

Overall Perspective for AF Recovery

It’s important to look into all of your options when making changes to your health plan, not just sound therapy. There are things that will work wonders for some that may not have any impact on others when it comes to solutions for stress recovery.

Getting your body back to a normal functioning unit is the most important focus that we should all maintain. Whether that means that you need to use relaxing environmental sounds for stress mitigation and recovery or make other changes to your diet and exercise routine, something needs to be done.

AFS and relaxing environmental soundsA complete health approach to AF recovery is the only way that you will win the battle against chronic stress and the issues that come with it. There are different things that are just as important as relaxation that can cause your body to insufficiently respond to stress.

If you don’t have enough proper nutrients to create vital hormones in the body, then you will have an imbalanced stress response which can lead to AF and even adrenal exhaustion. All of the building blocks must be present in order to have an adequate functioning stress response.

Conclusion

There have been great strides in scientific understanding of how our bodies and minds work to process and internalize information. The findings from the University of Sussex give a new importance to the old adage of ‘get some fresh air’ to remedy your stress. The information that they have uncovered actually gives credence to the wisdom that has been floating around our whole lives.

Sometimes you don’t have to look as far as you think to uncover a natural remedy that’s been sneaking around undiscovered. Just taking a step outside and listening to the leaves move in the breeze is enough to affect actual chemical changes in your brain. The fact that this information was proven to be effective during a controlled environmental study can give us all a bit of new motivation to get outside and take that walk we’ve been promising ourselves we would.

During extreme cases of AF, there will be more that must be done to combat the exhaustion and associated health problems than just listening to nature, but it’s a good starting point. If you believe that you are suffering from AF or chronic stress, please contact your healthcare professional immediately for advice on how you should proceed. It’s never too late to begin the process of AF recovery and there are options for everyone out there.

Taking an active role in your personal recovery is the first step to ensuring a healthy future. We are all starting from different places but at least there is a consensus that better health is something everyone deserves. Using what is already available to you during your journey to balance and wellness is the perfect gift from nature. You can make a larger impact through simple changes than you think so it’s time to get started today.

 
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Question

It’s difficult to say relaxing environmental sounds are better when they’re recorded because there are two sides to the story. It’s better for most people to get outside because of other benefits regarding nature beyond just sound. However, the beauty of recorded sound is that you can take it anywhere.


relaxing environmental sounds