We've been stuck inside for more than a year, thanks to COVID. The very idea of travel (or even leaving the house) might seem like a cruel joke — but hope is on the way. With vaccine distribution ramping up nationwide, it's possible we could all get some time in the great outdoors again in 2021.
That's good news for our mental health, which could use all the help it can get these days. A multidisciplinary team of researchers, including experts from the National Park Service, has just published a study on the aural benefits of getting out in nature. It turns out just listening to nature sounds can show significant changes in mood and body, including "decreased pain, lower stress, improved mood, and enhanced cognitive performance. The sounds of water were most effective at improving positive emotions and health outcomes, while bird sounds combat stress and annoyance."
Spotify may have beaten this news to the punch; its end-of-the-year playlist reports from 2020 found that listeners were flocking to ambient music and nature soundscapes throughout the pandemic. We already know that people who spend at least two hours in nature each week experience increased well-being. Even if you can't get to a national park, see if you can safely seek out a local forest preserve or other quiet place, removed from human noises.
Just listening to recordings can help our brains reach that peaceful, restorative state. If you're still stuck indoors for now, dig around YouTube or another streaming service for playlists. The right sounds for your mood could be just around the corner.