Woman sitting on a large boulder on the shore with a forest in the background

Listening to nature’s music

Today’s post comes from Kyra Santin, a Natural Heritage Education and Marketing Student from our Northwest Zone. 

George Santayana — poet, philosopher and naturalist — said, “The Earth has music for those who listen.”

The earth holds a lot of beauty within it. If we open our eyes and ears, and listen to the world that surrounds us, we can truly appreciate the music the earth is making.

Nature has something to tell you

Whether it is the calming sound of waves along the shoreline, the forest leaves rustling in the wind or perhaps rain dripping down on a roof, the sounds of nature can help relax your mind, body and soul.

Low shot of river, close the water, looking up at trees on the shoreline and sky
Rushing River Provincial Park

In surrounding yourself with the natural environment — by going for walk in the forest, paddle-boarding on a lake, or sitting and reading a book in the heart of the woods — you are allowing your body to breathe and slow down. You’re letting your mind relax, while your ears focus on the sounds around you.

“Just feel the magic in the air and the power in the breeze, feel the energy of the plants, the bushes and trees, let yourself be surrounded by nature at its best, calm yourself, focus and let magic do the rest.”

– Sally Walker

Try it sometime, take a break outside and listen to nature – trust me; it has a lot to say.

We need the sounds of nature

Regardless of your age, the sounds of nature are for everyone.

Girl in a red canoe touching the water
Woodland Caribou Provincial Park

In our lifestyles today, we are constantly surrounded by noise made from construction, traffic, or even our very own mobile devices. A lot of our time is spent trying to drown out loud noises and sounds, whether we are at home, work, or school.

Listening to nature has a way of transporting us from these noisy places to a place that feels more nourishing and calm.

Two girls with big hiking backpacks crouching down to look at moss in the forest
Lake Superior Provincial Park

In these forest sounds from Lake Superior Provincial Park, you can hear the sweet calls of the Winter Wren, the Blackburnian Warbler or the Swainson Thrush. Try to notice the effect these forest sounds have on you as you’re listening.

Healthier in mind and body

For many years, researchers have been studying why nature has such a calming effect on people. There are many ways that listening to nature benefits us, but the most common are:

  • improved relaxation and attention
  • better sleep
  • increased feelings of positivity

Our time in nature can help us to be healthier in both our mind and body.

Calm your mind and feel less stressed

Although we might not always have the chance to spend a lot of time outdoors, listening to a few minutes of a calming rain melody can reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and attention level.

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

– John Burroughs

Listening to nature sounds at the end of the day can help give our brains a break and make us feel more content and refreshed, and less stressed.

Putting it to the test

This past year, I was in the Bachelor of Education Program at Lakehead University, where I was able to complete a placement within a school setting. During my placement, I had the opportunity to play nature sounds for the kids while they worked on independent projects.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls Provincial Park

What I noticed was that the students responded really well to nature sounds and were able to work quietly on their tasks, while absorbing the music around them. They loved the quiet call of the birds, and the gentle flow of waterfalls.

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”

– Frank Lloyd Wright

When we are not able to get outside, why not bring some of the sounds of nature inside the classroom or workplace?

Resting easy

Research has shown that nature sounds can actually help us sleep better by reducing stress.

During most of our lives, we are regularly on the move. With everyday life, we may be constantly worrying and stressing about work, family and friends, or even what the next day might hold. This in turn can affect how we sleep at night.

The sounds of nature can help create a calming environment and lower stress levels.

Person in a red cap sitting next to a rushing river that is lined with ceder trees
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Listen to these sounds from Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Can you feel your stress levels going down with the call of the Swamp Sparrow or Spring Peeper?

Nature can help regenerate and heal our souls in the best way possible, so why not listen to the music of nature while you are trying to sleep. Soothing sounds at night, like forest sounds, the gentle flow of water or light raindrops on a tent, can help us detach from our everyday stress and rest easy.

From ocean waves, to thunderstorms, to crackling fires and forest rain

What I find helps me sleep at night is listening to an app I have on my phone that plays soft and calming nature sounds. Listening to these musical compositions for a few minutes before bed can help you drift into a gentle sleep.

Sometimes, these recordings include an instructor’s voice, describing a setting for you such as, “you are walking on a beach, feeling the sand beneath your toes, as the wind blows through your hair.”

Woman in a blue tank top, standing on a narrow bridge that is crossing a creek in the forest
Neys Provincial Park

These apps can range from 10-30 minutes of music and have a wide variety of melodies from ocean waves to thunderstorms to crackling fires to forest rain.

In order to improve our how we relax and maintain our attention span, we must take care of our bodies and get a good night’s sleep.

Being (and staying) positive!

The third benefit that listening to nature provides is an enhanced ability to be positive.

Whether you are feeling upset, angry, or stressed, listening to calming music that has bird calls or the rushing flow of a stream can help you boost your mood and lose any negativity you may be holding on to.

canyon with river
Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park

Need a positivity boost right now? Try this clip from Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park (including bird calls from the Red-eyed Vireo and White-throated Sparrow).

When we listen these melodies, our brain responds in a way that releases dopamine, which is a chemical (neurotransmitter) released by neurons, which improves our mood.

I find that when I am feeling stressed or upset, I will look for a comfortable place to sit, relax my mind and listen to the natural harmony of the earth.

Rocky shoreline with blue water and blue skies
Rainbow Falls Provincial Park

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

– John Muir

For me, it only takes a few minutes of listening to the sound of calming waves lapping on the beach before I’m thinking about how I can improve my mood and increase my positivity.

Make nature a habit

With Ontario Parks’ 30×30 Challenge already in motion for August, take some time to go outside and listen to the melodies nature is playing for you.

Immerse your senses in the great outdoors and watch as your stress levels reduce. Let the fresh air help you release your anxiety.

Woman sitting in the forest, reading a book
Woodland Caribou Provincial Park

Whether you decide to take a hike, bike to work, or kayak along the shoreline of a lake, Ontario Parks challenges you to spend 30 minutes in nature every day for 30 days.

Nature sounds resources

Interested in listening to nature at home and not sure where to start? Try these websites for nature sounds you can stream:

Or here are some nature music apps you can download to your phone:

  • Breethe
  • Relax Melodies: Sleep Sounds
  • Rain Rain Sleep Sounds

Reconnect with the great outdoors and help improve your overall well-being with what nature has to offer.

Thank you to Northwest Ecologist Evan McCaul for providing the sound clips from our parks featured in this post.