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Do you know that one of the main stressors in our lives is noise?
From traffic sounds to construction work to people talking to loud music or the television blaring in the background to the constant ding and chime of our electrical devices, we are bombarded daily with noise.
My activity this week, from the book 52 Ways to Walk, led me to a stroll through nature with the goal of disconnecting from all the noise in my life.
This is walk number 14, Walk with Your Ears.
Bombarded with Noise
Noise is a by product of our lives, especially for urban and city dwellers. Various studies show that city noises result in an increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Exposure to noise also elevates stress, creating inflamed blood vessels which raises the risk for stroke.
Studies of schools near busy airports found that students tested more poorly in cognitive and literary skills than those not near an airport. The World Health Organization believes that traffic noise alone contributes significantly to the loss of a healthier life. And even in a deep sleep, noise affects heart rate and blood pressure.
A study at Brighton and Sussex Medical School monitored the heart rate and brain activity of healthy adults as they listened to a variety of sounds. The brain region that’s active when we are resting and relaxed, referred to as that default mode, changed according to the sound listened to.
When participants listened to ocean waves, their brains switched into an outward focus of attention. Traffic sounds caused the brain to focus inward, in a state observed in people with anxiety, trauma and depression. And interestingly, the participants bodies followed their minds. In a more relaxed state their heart rates slowed, muscles relaxed and their digestive systems worked better.
Walk in Nature
The answer to all the noise in our lives, is to take time frequently to walk in a quiet, natural area. Nature sounds bring powerful healing to the body, reducing stress and anxiety, lowering cortisol levels and boosting overall health.
The following nature sounds seem to positively impact health the greatest:
- moving water in a river or the ocean
- rustling tree leaves
- twigs snapping underfoot
- animal sounds
- wind whistling through the trees
- rain falling
- acorns hitting the ground
- squelching mud
And experiencing these sounds outdoors is better than listening to recordings of nature sounds. People report feeling happier and more relaxed after walking in nature, verses listening to an app with nature sounds. Additionally, the activity of walking contributes to the powerful effects of listening to nature.
Tips for Walking with Your Ears
Following your ears as you walk in nature guides you to fresh experiences and an outwardly directed focus.
Choose an outdoor area away from traffic and city noises, preferably with trees and a river or stream nearby.
Walk alone, so that other than nature sounds, you walk in silence.
Listen for nature sounds such as birdsong, animal noises, water gurgling over rocks and the wind shushing through the trees. This is called susurration, which is defined as a whispering, murmuring or rustling sound.
Cup your hands around your ears, to amplify sounds around you.
Close your eyes occasionally, to turn focus from the visual to the auditory.
Follow a nature sound that you hear, to see where it leads.
Record your walk, catching some of the sounds you hear, to replay later.
My Walk with My Ears
I chose a wooded area south of my city, for my walk with my ears. The Shoal Creek area offers walking trails along the river and paths through the woods, making it an ideal location for this activity.
There were other people around, walking dogs, jogging along the paths and playing in the river. However the walkers passed by with a smile and a nod and my walk took me deeper into the woods, where it was quiet except for birdsong, insect noises and the gentle breeze moving through the trees.
Near the river I discovered that one animal noise is somewhat annoying…the incessant barking of a dog. I’m an animal lover, however when out walking for the benefits it brings, a barking dog is low on my list of what I hope to experience. Fortunately, away from the river, I couldn’t hear the dog.
The auditory focused walk soothed my body, which felt tired after a very busy week. I loved the sound of the breeze stirring the leaves and listening to different bird calls and insect sounds. The cicadas sang their undulating song of summer while crickets chirped. I heard small animals rustling in the underbrush although I never saw them. And I stopped to talk to my old friend, Oak Tree.
I left the woods and the creek refreshed and feeling happy.
You can watch a ten second video of my nature walk HERE.
Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk
Is walking an important form of exercise and relaxation for you? Then you would enjoy this book as well. The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.
I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. Throughout the next year, I intend to randomly select walks from the book.
Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk by clicking this LINK. And watch for future posts. I’ll share occasional highlights of some of the walks.
Do you have a quiet, nature area to walk in?
Walking in Nature finds from Amazon:
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