One of the major elements affecting quality of life anywhere in the world is sound. Sound is a form of energy, like light or electricity. It is often what makes a place special. Noise, however, is a loud or unpleasant sound. Noise can affect well-being negatively while sound can affect well-being positively.
In this series of articles, “Awaken Your Senses to Huatulco”, we continue exploring how the 5 senses (taste, sight, touch, smell, taste and sound) are stimulated by the magic of this place.
People are more or less susceptible to the influence of sound on their well-being in their daily lives. I think that this has a lot to do with how we grow up. I am from a pretty small town and growing up, I slept with the windows open in summer and complete silence at night. During the day, I heard sounds from my small neighborhood; cars going by, my friends on bikes, mom calling for me at the end of the day to come home for dinner. Small-town sounds.
Take a moment to think about the sounds you hear every day. How do those sounds make up your sense of place? Is there a sound that makes you think of home? Or of your childhood?
I feel like those sounds shape our ideal soundscape. For example, I'm a little out of my element in big cities especially where I can hear sounds all night long. Traffic, sirens, industrial noise have me on edge. I can feel myself relax in places where there is minimal noise and better yet, soft sounds like ocean waves.
Our Huatulco Ocean Scape
Erin and I are lucky enough to live close to the beach. The view is stunning. But the sound of those softly crashing waves 24/7 is a sweet lullaby. So much so that when we travel out of town, I am always deeply grateful to be back home to my comfort zone and hear the waves again. It is something we grow to miss.
The soft energy of the waves has a deeply calming effect. Even where people aren't on the beach, many choose the waves of the white noise machine to either fall asleep to or get up with.
Add to the sound of the waves, the gentle whistle of the wind. And, in the morning, as you rise, the birds are often what you hear first. Many times, I know what time it is according to the birds that are singing or passing overhead.
If you aren't here yet, you can check out this playlist the next time you want to sit down and relax.
Listen to an Ocean Scape playlist here. Or use one of the ocean playlists to go to sleep, reduce stress or wake up.
What does the science say?
The scientific explanation of why we sleep better with the sound of ocean waves or nature noises is that the brain distinguishes these soft noises as “non-threatening.” Loud, abrupt noises keep the body and mind on alert and in our “fight or flight response” mode. And during the day, too much noise just creates anxiety, especially if we're not used to it. Scientific studies show that depression and anxiety increase as noise annoyance increases. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4873188/)
As a matter of fact, citing the ocean's restorative power, many health care professionals encourage time by the sea or listening to the ocean as a form of self-care. In “Evidence shows ocean sound may help reduce stress and create a sense of calm” published on Phys.org, biologist Wallace J Nichols, the author of Blue Mind says:
“We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what's broken.”
Mexico's background noise
Mexico in general provides a wide array of new sounds to contemplate. Mexicans generally like noise. Go to your favorite local taco place. Three T.V.s on. No one is watching. And they're on as high as they'll go.
But as you begin distinguishing sounds, you'll come to appreciate the fun, sing songy Oaxacan coastal accent. You'll even develop a special affection for locals speaking Zapotec discovering its wide range of sonorities. To add to the discovery, you'll begin hearing new instruments and new genres as you discover the regional styles of music.
Now, Mexico City is a place unto itself in the noise department. As far as big cities go, I'm sure it's among the noisiest. And unique noises and sounds at that. Read more about that here in : “What the hell is that? A guide to the sounds of Mexico City.”
It Affects Animals, Too
Interestingly enough, the pandemia has brought the effect of noise on humans and animals to the forefront. In a NPR article, marine biologists compared the songs of humpback whales in Glacier Bay where boat traffic went down considerably in the spring of 2020 because of the pandemic. Comparing songs or conversations between the whales previously with a lot of traffic and conversations with less traffic, biologists easily distinguished that the stress levels of the whales went way down. The songs are very different. The article is here: https://www.npr.org/2020/07/20/891854646/whales-get-a-break-as-pandemic-creates-quieter-oceans
Have a listen to the recordings in the article.
Huatulco is a gem in so many ways that we have discussed on this blog. Adding another shiny facet, is the absence of noise pollution. No claustrophobia like in the big cities. This is another of the pillars of the quality of life in Huatulco that influences our well-being every single day. The absence of big city noise and the presence of the sound of soft waves contributing to our well-being by reducing stress levels which in turn boosts the immune system.
Come and see for yourself or visit us on a Stay and Play if you're ready to explore the possibility of purchasing property and moving part or full-time to Mexico.