At the risk of being branded hopelessly New Age, I’ll confess to listening to nature sounds while working. If you want to work smarter, you should try it too.
It all started in early January, with “the winter that wouldn’t end.” Logically, I know that January is the middle of winter in Wisconsin, but the weather conditions for much of the month made it seem much more like late February. Teasing tastes of spring followed by hard polar blasts are hard to endure.
Around the same time, I read how multitasking is destroying the average person’s attention span and dampening their overall satisfaction and mood. With the advent of smartphones, coupled with their copious notifications — buzzes, beeps and badge icons — it’s not just kids who can be found staring blindly at their hands. Add in the living experiment of social media and computer-based technology. Data scientists plumb the depths of our every pause, click and tap to suss out the ways to best keep us engaged with our electronic devices. In the winter of my discontent, the cacophony of digital indicators sought to whipsaw my peace of mind into obscurity.
Almost in desperation, I turned to Dr. Google. (Yes, I recognize the irony in using technology to find respite from technology.) Amid the search results was an article from Health.com, with the teaser copy, “You know that feeling of clear-headed calm that washes over you when you listen to water babbling down a stream, or leaves rustling in the wind?” Not really, I thought, but I’m willing to try.
As the article notes, researchers set out to explore the connection between the brain, the body and background noise. Perhaps not surprisingly, they found that listening to familiar nature sounds prompted more external-focused attention — and improved the ability to focus and concentrate. Perhaps I could counteract technology with nature?
And so began my own experiments listening to nature’s sounds. A quick YouTube search yielded everything from summer rains, crashing waves, forest birdsong and babbling brooks. Over the last few weeks, I’ve tried them all. Without a doubt, the experience has improved my concentration and attention span. What’s more, I feel energized and relaxed at the end of the workday. So, join me by a babbling brook, or perhaps a crackling campfire, and let me know how it works for you.