Usually, natural environments (being out in "nature") tend to induce a happy and peaceful state, while mechanical and technological ones tend to induce stress and sadness.

Why does this happen? Are we born with this notion, or do we just build up that in our minds over time? and even so, why?


3 Answers 3


Maybe we should ask a vietnam vet if he feels less stress in nature than inside a building.

I think the reason we feel tense inside is because we've been conditioned to expect stressful situations to happen while inside, so we're on guard for it (ie tense). Nothing bad has ever happened to us while sitting on a park bench listening to the birds chirp. Now, if tigers start leaping out at us on a consistent basis while at the park, this feeling may change. We might decide the sounds of clicking keyboards and tapping shoes to be more relaxing.

Another point to consider is that the sounds of birds chirping means "things are ok". Bird have a high viewpoint compared to terrestrial animals and when birds are singing, there probably isn't a tiger stalking us. Also, if you notice, birds sing after storms pass. I know when I hear the birds singing, I can go back outside and get back to work... the storm is over. Its possible this knowledge is instinctual.

The same could be said of crickets and frogs. When you hear crickets and frogs, things are ok. When the crickets and frogs suddenly stop, that when you grab the flashlight and see what's lurking in the woods.

An odd one is the sound of water. If you're a prey animal, which humans would be in the wild, you'd have a large chance of being ambushed while getting a drink. All predators gather around the watering hole and stalk victims. So this raises the question... why are water sounds relaxing? This is evidence against instinct. Water sounds would be relaxing as a result of association rather than instinct. When I take a drink of water, I feel better. When I go fishing, I don't have to worry about anything but fishing. Water has always been good to me, so when I hear it, I feel better. Also, the sounds of water tends to drown-out other sounds. That's why spies on tv tend to have their conversations near moving water. There is something about the randomness of water sounds that won't allow pattern recognition in other sounds. When we hear water, its hard to be disturbed by other sounds, therefore, easier to be at peace.

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    $\begingroup$ @Skippy I chose "waterhole" because it had a funny connotation to it. I think you'd be equally at risk near a fast moving stream. The density of predators will be higher near water centerforwildlifeinformation.org/BeBearAware/Hiking_and_Camping/… I do camp near a stream, but I have a firearm and stay up most of the night with a camp fire. If I had no firearm, I wouldn't be close to water. $\endgroup$
    – Randy
    Aug 14, 2013 at 3:26

In this article, the authors note that natural sounds promote faster stress recovery than artificial sounds. One of the main reasons is because the natural sounds are more familiar than the artificial sounds. According to Eleanor Ratcliffe, natural sounds (such as bird song) may evoke memories of different seasons. This in turn, produces positive affect.

You might be interested in this TED talk about the ways sounds affect us. It seems that many nature sounds are at the 12 Hz frequency (alpha waves and the natural breathing rhythm) according to Julian Treasure.


Stress Recovery during Exposure to Nature Sound and Environmental Noise by Jesper J. Alvarsson et al. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2010, 7(3), 1036-1046; doi:10.3390/ijerph7031036

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    $\begingroup$ I agree that natural sounds may promote faster recovery, but I kinda disagree of being because they are familiar, u may even hear car sounds more often since young than bird singing, still you won't find car sounds as stress recovery $\endgroup$ Aug 13, 2013 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ Alpha is more 10 than 12 hz, and breathing is a lot slower than that still. $\endgroup$
    – jona
    Jul 23, 2014 at 1:21

I'm surprised nobody brought this up yet. Maybe that fact is a sign of you all having gotten used to it:

Artificial environments usually are filled with noise. You only notice how much noise there is, when you take a hike in the wilderness, and there are no more far away car sounds, no radios and televisions, no human multitude talking, no computer fans – only the wind and the birds.

Noise induces stress and this basic level of stress never leaves us civilized people, because the sounds of civilization never leave us, not even at night. We may no longer consciously hear it – once I moved away from the flat beside the highway I was at first unable to sleep because of the unfamiliar quiet – but our brains process it and it affects our physiology.


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