Most areas in urban environments have replaced the de-stressing nature sounds of wind, water and songbirds with the stress producing noise of leaf-blowers, garbage trucks, other diesel transport trucks, jack hammers, contruction site noises, traffic, motorcycles, generators, car alarms and sirens. The list goes on and grows continuously. As Julian Treasure says in his book Sound Business, all of this noise is having on impact on us as it releases the stress inducing hormones adrenaline and cortisol into our systems.
Right now, we answer this problem by making it worse. We turn the music up to mask the unpleasant sounds and we speak louder or even shout to be heard above the din. The consequence is everyone else does the same and we create an even louder and more stressful soundscape. We seem to be making everything louder in order to be heard.
So what do we do?
Start by saying something – quietly. Ask retailers to turn the music down and close the front door to the shop to reduce street noise. If a retail space is unusually noisy, share that with the manager or owner. Let them know you are leaving because of it or at the very least that it is affecting your shopping experience.
Start choosing positive sounds. What phone ringer do you have right now? What impact is it having on you and those around you when it rings? What about your alarm clock? Shop and eat at venues that have created peaceful or positive sound environments. Thank them for it and tell others to shop there. Play relaxing and contemplative music when you feel stressed at a low to moderate volume.
Re-introduce the sounds of wind, water and birds into your spaces – either naturally or with audio media. Here is a great website that lets you compose your personal nature soundscapes that you can play quietly on your computer.
Take time to go to a quiet park or beach and listen to the natural sounds all around you.
As a last resort, play relaxing music or nature sounds on your iPod with headphones. However, keep the volume low and be sure you can still hear the world outside. There is a problem with headphones other than hearing damage I’ll get to in another blog post.
What are your favourite and most relaxing sounds?
What is the worst noise you’d love to disappear from the environment you live in?