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Walk with your ears

  • The author, Johanna Spiri, described how Heidi missed the healing sounds of the mountains when she moved to the city. And now there are researchers who see that in-patients in hospitals who listen to natural sounds have reduced anxiety. The sound of running water lowers cortisol levels more effectively than silence or classical music. So, a walk with our ears can be very beneficial.
  • Other researchers exposed 17 healthy young people to different natural and artificial sounds to see how they would be affected. Starting in a relaxed state (baseline neural activity), they heard the sound of rolling waves, and their brains switched to outward-directed focus of attention. While listening to the sound of traffic, their brains shifted to inward-directed focus of attention, which is similar to the state in which we suffer from anxiety, depression or trauma. Additionally, the sound of rolling waves affected their bodies, reducing heart rate, relaxing muscles, and stimulating gentle activity in the intestines and glands, indicating that the body was returning to a state of relaxation. Finally, it was noted that when listening to natural sounds, participants performed better on tasks that required their full attention, suggesting that listening to running water while walking can improve our problem-solving skills. Those with more stress relaxed more when listening to natural sounds.
  • The WHO believes that traffic noise causes the loss of 1 million years of healthy lives. Numerous studies show that there is an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attack and heart disease. It can cause a spike in stress, resulting in swollen blood vessels, which increases the risk of stroke. Pupils in schools near large airports suffer from poorer comprehension, memory and literacy skills. Noise affects pulse, heart rate and blood pressure, even during the deepest sleep.
  • So, we can go for a walk and listen to the natural sounds of the environment. According to the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty in the UK, the following sounds give us the most pleasure: birdsong, a running stream, rustling tree leaves, silence, twigs breaking underfoot, animal noises, wind whistling through the trees, rain falling on leaves, chestnuts falling to the ground, and squishing in mud. It also says that 30% of people who listen to natural sounds notice an increase in their state of relaxation, while those who listen to a guided voice on a meditation app do not notice any change. It is not enough to listen to natural sounds indoors, you need to go outside.
  • The most effective way to walk and listen is to surrender to the experience and let your ears guide you, for example, following the sound of an insect or a bird. The weather changes our routes, for example if there is drought, rain, wind or snow, and night sounds are different too. The important thing is to walk with our focus of attention directed outward, not inward.

Source: 52 Ways to Walk: Annabel Streets – Bloomsbury Publishing