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Listen to nature: it might do you good!
Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) is encouraging people to listen to the sounds of nature on World Listening Day, Wednesday 18th July. The idea is to listen to local soundscapes, so close your eyes and tune in to the swallows twittering overhead, trees’ leaves rustling in the wind or the heavy downpour disappearing down the drain; it might make you feel different, even better.
Just as we listen to other people, our relationship with nature can be enhanced by listening to what it has to say. Our green spaces have a ‘voice’ of their own, formed from the geology, weather, flora, and fauna that are found in them. These natural sounds are often subtle, meaning that making time to listen to them is all the more important. But what can we learn from listening to nature that we do not already know?
Research from environmental psychology tells us that experience of pleasant natural environments can improve people’s mood and attention after stressful or mentally demanding experiences. It is thought that this is due to the positive, relaxing associations we make with visual nature and its ability to be easily processed by the mind. However, we tend not to experience nature purely through vision, but we hear, smell, and touch it too. So can we achieve the same emotional and cognitive benefits by listening to nature, not just viewing it?
Recent psychological studies suggest so, indicating that natural soundscapes can speed up recovery from stressful experiences. As yet, there is limited understanding of why this might be, and how individual elements that make up such soundscapes, such as birdsong, wind, and water, can be of help in their own right. The first step to developing such knowledge is to start listening to what’s around us, so escape the ‘earphones in and iPod on’ culture and head for your local nature reserve for an aural experience that’s sure to delight!
Eleanor Ratcliffe, PhD student in environmental psychology at the University of Surrey, says: “A while back, I accidentally went out without my mobile phone so, being unoccupied, eavesdropped on conversations on the train and listened to the sounds of the city and of parks and gardens that I walked through. By listening, I felt more connected; I was not just passing through my environment, but relating to it and the people around me more directly.”
Eleanor is running a three year research project, looking into the impact of birdsong on our brain and behaviour, in partnership with SWT and the National Trust. The project will explore the psychological impact of being exposed to the sound of birdsong - including its effects on our mood and attention - and aims to increase understanding of the benefits of spending time in nature.
For more information about World Listening Day, visit www.worldlisteningproject.org and for updates on the birdsong project follow @BirdsongProject on Twitter or like the project’s Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/birdsongproject.
|Date published:||Monday 09 July 2012|