A walk in woodlands can make strong strides with your stress levels and can boost your overall wellbeing, according to a new study.
The National Trust research aimed to compare the impact on stress and anxiety of listening to woodland sounds compared to listening to an audio recording of a relaxing meditation.
Findings showed that listening to woodland sounds – including birds singing, leaves crunching underfoot, and the trickle of a stream – increased relaxation levels by 30%. They also reduced stress levels by 24%, and there was a 19% downturn in anxiety. Comparing this with the voiced meditation app: relaxation levels showed no change, but feelings of stress reduced by 39% and feelings of anxiety reduced by 47%. The research concluded that the environment can impact on how you feel.
Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe, Lecturer in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey, said: ‘There is a large body of scientific evidence demonstrating that experience of nature can benefit health and wellbeing, including recovery from everyday psychological stress. 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.’
Stress management techniques often focus on breathing, meditation, exercise and managing your negative thoughts. Yet this latest study shows that attuning to your senses and listening to calming sounds can help too. If woodland sounds work for you, then think about other ways you can soothe your stress through your ears – maybe by making a play list of your favourite relaxing music to accompany you back to a calmer place when you feel your stress levels rising.