There’s a saying that goes “you have two ears and one mouth – use them in that ratio”. It’s a saying I know I should take heed of more than I know I do. There have been far too many times when I have spoken in response to something I haven’t properly heard. But I am learning, albeit slowly, to pause. To listen. And then, with consideration, respond.
But this isn’t a blog about listening to people. This is about listening to nature. I’ve often heard people say that they love the peace and tranquillity of time spent out in nature – perhaps in a woodland, a meadow or on a deserted beach – and I have to say that I’m one of them. Whilst these locations are peaceful from the noise of the manmade world – they offer a very different soundscape. One that has proven positive effects on your mental health and wellbeing.
It’s no coincidence that many of the wellbeing apps on the market today offer soundscapes of zen gardens, falling rain, ocean surf, forest ambience and evening crickets. Whilst no all of them will appeal to everyone – there will always be at least one soundscape on there that is likely to offer relaxation. For me, it’s the Costa Rican jungle soundscape on the Calm app that is guaranteed to take me to a happy place.
So what is it about these nature sounds that are so calming? It comes down to what is known as the biophilic hypothesis. For a moment let’s step back in time to the age of our hunter gatherer ancestors. They would have used their senses out in nature to a much greater effect than we do today. For them the sound of bird song, a babbling brook or the wind blowing through the leaves on a tree told them that life could be sustained in that environment – that they were safe. It was something so deep ingrained in them that it has travelled down the generational line to us today. Somewhere deep within our subconscious is that seed of an idea – where nature thrives so life can be sustained and we can live.
When we first went into lockdown in early 2020, on those daily permitted excursions from the house it was the sounds of nature that struck a chord with so many. Suddenly bird song was heard. In the fields near where I live I heard a cuckoo – the first time for many years that I’d heard one. It wasn’t that these sounds suddenly started – it was instead that they could now be heard as the manmade soundtrack that we’d be used to had been switched off. Less cars on the road. The skies were free of jet planes. There was just nature – and it sounded so calming and soothing. Hearing it also demonstrated how life was continuing around us regardless.
Invitation: Next time you go outside I invite you to find a place to just stop, close your eyes for a moment and just listen. I wonder what you’ll hear?
If you feel inclined to take this invitation – you’re welcome to comment below with what you are noticing.