This One Practice Can Supercharge The Mental Health Benefits Of Your Walk
If you typically reach for headphones before heading out for a solo walk, well, you're not the only one. And generally, what you listen to when you walk might depend on your mood: Some days call for a podcast, others for music, or perhaps you might dabble in an audiobook. However, sometimes, no stimulation at all is what can actually calm your mind.
Don't worry; we're not going to tell you to always avoid wearing headphones while walking. But as award-winning writer Annabel Streets, author of 52 Ways To Walk, shares on the mindbodygreen podcast, there are benefits to listening to nature while you walk—specifically on days you're looking for some extra relaxation.
Why you should listen to nature sounds while you walk.
Yes, listening to nature sounds seems quite lovely, but there's actually research to back up the benefit, too. Specifically, one study has shown that those who listened to woodland sounds—like a trickling stream, birdsong, or crunching leaves—reported a 30% increase in relaxation. And of those sounds, birdsong was the runaway winner, with 40% of participants saying the sound made them feel happier. So if you're headed out the door in the hopes of finding some peace, take out your headphones and see if you can hear some birdsong—it might be worth your while.
That being said, not everyone has the ability to stroll through a quiet, serene nature space. If you live in a bustling city, the surrounding noise may consist of more honking horns and passing trains, fewer trickling streams and birdsongs. Unfortunately, she continues, you can't find a birdsong playlist and reap the same benefits. "Perhaps we know it's not the same. It doesn't feel right listening to fake birdsong," she notes.
So if you do need some peace while walking through the city, using headphones to cancel out any noise may still be helpful, and Streets agrees. "I would absolutely listen to a podcast—not all the time but quite often," she says. In addition, that same study showed that a voiced meditation may also help ease stress and increase happiness—so that's always an option too.
Plus, if you don't have access to nature space without city background noise, there are a host of other ways you can promote a sense of relaxation on your walk. Exercise itself, we should mention, is a helpful stress-reliever, as is meditation—try this 10-minute guided moment of peace. You can also turn to daily supplements to help bring your body back to baseline and relieve stress before it builds up into a problem.* Utilizing powerful, plant-based ingredients (such as hemp-derived CBD, ashwagandha, and lavender oil) is another way to support your mood throughout the day, especially if birdsongs aren't exactly right outside your door.* Find our favorite supplements for stress here.
There are many ways to make your daily walk more enjoyable, including stimulation via music or a podcast. But, as Streets suggests, opting for nature's music—i.e., birdsong and running water—may be a better choice if you're looking to relax or enhance your mood. That way, you can make the most of your daily walk—and you can find all of Streets' walking tips here.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including skin care, women’s health, mental health, sustainability, social media trends, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends and innovations, women’s health research, brain health news, and plenty more.