Nature for Nurture

We know that being in nature boosts wellbeing, but if you can’t get outside, can a soundscape help?

The rustling of leaves in the wind. The snap of a twig underfoot. The burble of a running stream. The call of a songbird. Sounds of nature have a direct impact on our wellbeing, making us less anxious and more relaxed. They can also stimulate the imagination.

 

Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe, Lecturer in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey, states:

 

“There is a large body of scientific evidence demonstrating that experience of nature can benefit health and wellbeing.

 

Much of this research has focused on visual experiences, but more recent work has shown that the sounds of the outdoors, such as birdsong, wind, and water, can also improve mood and reduce stress. These sounds offer a way to connect with nature no matter where you are.”

 

Images of nature are sometimes introduced in hospitals through pictures of landscapes. But could a focus on other senses - on the smells and sounds of nature - benefit staff and patient wellbeing? 

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Credit: National Trust

Recordings

 

At the University of Bristol, Dr Victoria Bates has researched the effects of recorded soundscapes on those who cannot get outside. Through her collaborative project ‘A Sense of Place’, she discovered that sound recordings of nature create space for the imagination. 

 

Recordings can trigger memories, visualisations, and sensations. The sound of birds could remind you of a time you heard a dawn chorus, or rolling waves a time you were at the beach. 

 

Of course, sound recordings can never authentically replicate real life, and are not intended to. However, they can have real, tangible benefit for wellbeing as a trigger for your memory and imagination. 

Activity

Why not try it? You can listen to soundscapes from the ‘A Sense of Place’ project here: 

 

Close your eyes and see where the sounds take you. Maybe you’ll remember a time you had forgotten? Or maybe just go on a journey of the imagination, over the hill and on to the other side....

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1. Birdsong

2. A running stream

3. Wind rustling tree leaves

4. Silence

5. Twigs snapping underfoot

6. Animal noises

7. Wind whistling through trees

8. Rain falling on leaves

9. Conkers hitting the ground

10. Squelching of mud

According to a study commissioned by the National Trust, the nation’s favourite woodland sounds are:

Credit: National Trust