Nature Sounds, calming, White Noise For Sleeping, Relaxation.Forest Vibes, Relaxing Autumn Shore

A walk in the woods – or even a sound machine that reads recordings of nature – can affect heart rate and alter connections in the brain, according to the researchers. Do you know that feeling of lucid calm that invades you when you listen to water stammering in a stream or leaves rustling in the wind? Researchers say they have identified a scientific explanation of why the sounds of nature have such a restorative effect on our psyche: according to a new study, they physically alter the connections in our brain, reducing the natural instinct to fight or escape from our bodies. Natural sounds and green environments have been linked to relaxation and well-being for hundreds of years, of course. But the new research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, is the first to use brain scans, heart rate monitors and behavioral experiments to suggest a physiological cause for these effects. To study the link between the brain, body and background noise, researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School in England recruited 17 healthy adults to receive functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans while listening to a series of five-minute soundscapes. artificial environments. During each soundscape, participants also performed a task to measure their attention and reaction time. Their heart rate was also monitored to indicate changes in their autonomic nervous system – the system of organs involved in involuntary processes such as breathing, blood pressure, temperature, metabolism and digestion. When studying the results of fMRI, the researchers noticed that activity in the brain’s default network – an area involved in mind wandering and “taskless” wakefulness states – varied depending on the background sounds played. Specifically, listening to artificial sounds was associated with inward-focused attention patterns, while the sounds of nature prompted more external attention. Inside attention may include anxiety and rumination on self-specific things – patterns that have been linked to conditions involving psychological stress (including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder). Participants’ reaction times were also slower when listening to artificial sounds compared to natural sounds. Slight differences in heart rate were also detected, indicating a change in the response of the body’s autonomic nervous system. Overall, the sounds of nature were associated with a decrease in the body’s sympathetic response (which causes this feeling of “fight or flight”) and an increase in the parasympathetic response – one that helps the body relax and function under normal circumstances, and is sometimes called the “rest-digest” response. These results were not the same for everyone, however: people who started the study with the most sympathetic responses (suggesting high levels of stress) recorded the greatest benefits of relaxing clips on nature. People who started with low levels of sympathetic response, on the other hand, actually have a slight increase when listening to natural sounds compared to artificial sounds. Lead author Cassandra Gould van Praag, PhD, a researcher at the University of Sussex, says the results of the study can have real-world impacts, especially for people with high stress levels. “I would certainly recommend a walk in a natural environment to anyone, whether they currently feel exhausted or not,” she told Health by email. “Even a few minutes of escape could be beneficial.” Gould van Praag says research inspired her to go out for breaks or listen to the sounds of nature using an app throughout her workday. “I really found the downloaded tracks useful for times when I couldn’t get away from my desk,” she said. (She adds that it took a while to find an application that “suited me”, so she doesn’t recommend rushing into software or noise machine purchases without trying them beforehand.) #naturesounds

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