Can nature improve our physical and mental health?
A few days ago, the BBC opened its large library of sound files to the general public and launched a virtual collection of more than 17,000 soundscapes drawn from the archive of the BBC History Unit, a selection of sounds from nature from all over the world of the last 100 years. You can hear the sound of oceans, forests, animal species, and hideouts that you would normally have miles away and that are not so easy to get to day-to-day.
This website is also interactive, allowing you to mix different sound effects and create your own personalized sound environment, as well as discover and listen to other users’ mixes.
This initiative is part of an experiment developed in the United Kingdom and promoted by the BBC and the University of Exeter, which seeks to discover the potential of virtual experiences in nature to boost our well-being. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the increase in mental health problems that it has entailed, the intention of the website is to delve into what many academic studies have been saying for years: the contact with nature and music influence our mood in a positive way.
So, is it true that being in contact with nature helps us improve our physical and mental health?
It is not the first time that we talk about the positive effects that nature has on our health. According to several studies, natural spaces, and especially those in contact with the sea, help to improve our mood and reduce stress. So much so that there is a whole scientific discipline called “Oceans and Human Health” that is dedicated to studying this phenomenon.
In the 1750s, doctors observed that being close to the ocean seemed to have a positive effect on human health. Later, this thought was scientifically proven and it was concluded that living (or being) by the ocean has many health benefits: people get sick less often and experience less mental decline than those who live inland. However, these benefits are not exclusive to people who live near the coast; Looking at the ocean can lower your heart rate and improve your mood.
Spending time on the coast or near the sea makes us feel good physically and mentally. It reduces stress, promotes physical activity, and increases social interaction. Surfing, for example, is associated with a reduced risk of dementia and cardiovascular disease. In a 2016 study, the health benefits of water sports were estimated to save approximately € 200 million a year on healthcare just in the UK.