What is it about the sound of water that is so relaxing? When I was on a radio talk show a few months ago promoting my relaxation / ambiance CD and DVD’s, the co-host nailed me with that curve-ball question. Being live and on-the-air, I had to think of something fast! But what? I’m not a psychologist and have no background in psychology. So I attempted to spit out an answer, but failed miserably, ending my foot-in-mouth response with, “well, it puts me to sleep.” I was hoping to avoid more questions I couldn’t answer for the rest of my airtime, and lucky I was!
But, I have always wondered myself, what it is about the sound of water that is so relaxing. Let’s make something abundantly clear now. Not all water sounds are relaxing! Like say, the sound of a leaky and drippy faucet that might remind one of water torture. Actually it is water torture if it’s keeping you up all night and you need your sleep! The sound of a leaky roof is pretty disconcerning too. Even worse….the sound of water shorting out electronics. I detest that sound and cringe when I’ve been lucky enough to experience it. Not fun.
But, most other water sounds are generally considered relaxing and soothing. The sound of waves, rain, streams and waterfalls. Hence why people love fountains so much. It’s a way to bring that peaceful zen of a stream to their living space without needing to go to one all the time.
I asked a psychologist one time this question, and surprisingly, they didn’t know. I don’t either, but I have my theories.
We do know that white noise, among being useful for drowning out other unwanted noises, is often soothing. The sound of a constantly running stream or fountain is a form of white noise. The white noise factor may be one reason the sound of water is relaxing.
But I really suspect there’s way more to it than that. I think there are more symbolic reasons. Water is essential to life, our very existing here. So, water represents life and Earth. In my mind, hearing the sounds of water in their natural environments touches on our inner beings where we are on some subconscious level reminded of this. And hearing it instantly soothes us and relaxes us. It takes people to their “happy place”. It does for me and it is phenomenal.
Water must be pretty symbolic and magical if Bruce Lee made references to it in his teachings when he said things in his interviews like, “Be water my friend”, or, “Be formless, shapeless, like water. Now, you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle…….Water can flow, or it can crash.”
Nature in general relaxes us. Water is found everywhere in nature. Therefore, when we hear it in a natural environment it tends to have a calming effect.
If we consider how our brains and minds work, there is another explanation for the sounds of water relaxing us. We as humans are susceptible to an altered state of consciousness called hypnosis. What helps induce hypnosis? Repetition. Have you ever been lulled into a state of spaceyness driving down a highway where every mile looks like the next? That’s called “highway hypnosis”. The repetitive nature of things can help induce hypnosis. Well, the cyclic repetition of ocean waves and the constant rush of water in a stream can very well draw us into a state of light hypnosis or deep relaxation. When we are hypnotized we are relaxed.
So I think the combination of those things makes the sounds of water so relaxing and soothing to our souls. I just wish I would have thought this through before my appearance on that radio talk show. Then again, I had no idea he would ask the question.
I’ve always known about the positive psychological effect of the sounds of water, and the huge benefits to our minds and bodies of including regular relaxation sessions in our busy and stressful lives. That is why I decided to release my line of ambiance DVD’s and CD, to share the power of relaxation and my love of nature. (The following products listed on this page are sold by Herbey Productions – www.herbeyproductions.com.)
Hillside Stream – DVD video
That folks were my uneducated theories as to why water sounds are so relaxing. I say “uneducated” because I have no formal education in psychology. But who cares, these are just my ramblings!