Listening To Nature Sounds At Work Can Boost Your Mood And Productivity, Study Finds

05/26/2015 10:28 am ET | Updated May 26, 2015
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Listening to the sound of crashing waves or a babbling brook isn't just useful for helping you fall asleep -- it may also help you to focus at work.

A small new study finds that listening to nature sounds at work can boost your mood and productivity.

The findings, which were presented at the Acoustical Society of America's annual meeting this week, suggest employees can get more done and feel more positive if there are nature sounds playing in the background while they work.

Scroll down to listen to a work-friendly nature sounds playlist.

Many offices use white noise as a "sound masking system," which raises the background noise of the room so that other sounds -- like typing and conversations -- aren't as loud and distracting.

"If you're close to someone, you can understand them," Dr. Jonas Braasch, a musicologist at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the study's lead author, explained in a statement. "But once you move farther away, their speech is obscured by the masking signal."

But the new research suggests that nature sounds may be even better.

During three sessions in the same room, the researchers asked 12 participants to complete a test requiring sustained attention. Each session featured a different soundscape in the background: office sounds muffled by white noise, office sounds masked with the sound of "flowing water in a mountain stream," and office sounds with no masking noise.

What did they find? When listening to the natural sounds, the workers not only performed better on the task, but also reported feeling more positive about their environment than they did in the other sessions.

"Nature sounds can have a restorative effect on our cognitive abilities," Braasch told The Huffington Post. "Participants favored the mountain stream signal 6-to-1 over the traditional white noise signal."

Ocean waves and mountain streams don't do it for you? Try listening to one of your favorite upbeat albums instead. Some research has suggested that listening to music that puts you in a good mood can also help you get more done.

Of course, it's also important to use nature sounds correctly if you want to boost your mood and productivity -- Braasch emphasizes that the sounds should be calm (no frogs or bird calls), and not played too loudly. Try the playlist below to see for yourself.

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