The Efficacy of a Brief Nature Sound Intervention on Muscle Tension, Pulse Rate, and Self-Reported Stress: Nature Contact Micro-Break in an Office or Waiting Room

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Abstract

Background:

There is a growing recognition that environmental design impacts health and well-being. Nature contact is a design feature or exposure that is especially important in public health and healthcare. To date, there are limited findings on the impact of nature sounds.

Objective:

This experimental study was designed to examine the effect of nature sounds on physiological and psychological stress.

Methods:

Participants were randomized into one of three groups—silence (n = 9), nature sound (n = 17), and classical music (n = 14)—and listened to the assigned sound for 15 min in an office or waiting room-like environment. Pre- and postdata were collected including muscle tension (electromyogram), pulse rate, and self-reported stress.

Results:

With the exception of pulse rate, there were no statistical differences in baseline or demographics among groups. A paired t-test by group showed a decrease in muscle tension, pulse rate, and self-reported stress in the nature group and no significant differences in the control or the classical music groups. The significant reduction in muscle tension occurred at least by 7 min of listening to the nature sound.

Conclusion:

This study highlights the potential benefit of even very brief (less than 7 min) exposure to nature sounds. Brief nature sound “booster breaks” are a promising area for future research with important practical implications.

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