by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

During the early months of the COVID-19 shutdown, urban residents noted that with less aircraft traffic overhead and fewer cars on the road, they were able to see and hear more birds. In general, the shutdown tuned in many people around the world to the sounds of nature and individuals responded positively to these comforting sounds. According to a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and cited by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “natural sounds can have wide-ranging positive effects.” This statement was made after analyzing dozens of studies.

The lead author of the study, Rachel Buxton, said that listening to waterfalls or waves hitting the shoreline results in the alleviation of stress and the increase in positive feelings. When you listen to natural soundscapes, you become less stressful and this can “decrease your heart rate, improve mood cognitive functions and even reduce pain.”

Although this article comes from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, one of the two photos displayed is that of a group of people enjoying nature and bird-watching in Central Park, New York City. In the article, Buxton further states that “listening to recorded nature sounds were shown to have benefits, as does listening to nature sounds in urban parks where sounds of traffic are also present.” Thus, urban dwellers should take time off and visit their parks.

As a New Yorker, I can attest that I have found regular walks in my nearby parks most comforting. New York City may be thought of as a noisy place, but it is also a city with many parks throughout the five boroughs.

So do follow the advice of this article and whenever you are out and about, try to find an area where “you can immerse yourself in whatever natural sounds are within earshot.” Your health and well-being depend on you doing this.