What started as an adaptation to technological difficulties grew into a new research interest and intentional structure of the whole massage environment.
I love my office. It has a skylight for natural light, and it is large with plenty of room to move around. My office mate has an amazing eye for design, so she put together the space in a way that is beautiful and functional. I am proud to bring new clients into the space and trust they will feel at ease there.
I don’t love the technology, or lack thereof. There is no WiFi in the space, so my regular streaming music service is not available. When I moved into the space, I pulled out my tablet and searched my apps for some kind of relaxing noise making program. I found I had an app called Spa Music, and that this app had a mixing board page. You could combine any number of nature sounds to create a custom, relaxing soundscape. I quickly settled on “Lake” as the background and experimented with different bird songs, crickets, or even jungle frogs on top. The sounds would play until I turned off the tablet, with no wireless connection necessary.
I set up the nature sounds on the speakers and invited in my first clients with some trepidation. Would they miss the music? Is there someone out there who really is a huge Dean Everson or Enya fan, and was I alienating them?
I quickly learned a few true things:
- Almost no one notices the music/sounds unless they stop unexpectedly.
- Lots of people in Kentucky get significant joy out of observing and identifying birds.
- Working around nature sounds for several hours has a significant positive effect on my outlook.
Somewhere in the collection of random information in my brain, I remembered one of my friends talking about forest bathing. Forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, has been described in Japan since the 1980s, and is a part of preventative health care there. Several studies on the benefits of forest bathing suggest that a slow, attentive, mindful walk in nature has a number of health benefits. A few researchers started to break the experience into pieces to see if similar health benefits could be available to people in urban environments. A study in Japan suggested that simply being around fresh flowers in an office had a positive, relaxing effect on office workers.
What about just the sounds of nature? Could listening to lake noises or birdsong have a positive effect on someone’s overall massage experience? So far, I haven’t found any studies on this particular question, so I only have stories.
I have the story of the woman (and avid birder) who is coping with a painful autoimmune condition, whose posture relaxed as soon as she heard the birdsong in my office.
I have the story of the man who called my office “instant calm” when he walked in.
And I have the story of every day I spend in that office, feeling more attentive and present without the burden of tuning out some hideous “spa music” coming from the streaming service.
For now, I am letting the nature sounds play on, and spending as much time as possible in actual nature as part of my regular self-care. I’ve got other, really fun projects keeping me occupied outside the office right now, but who knows? Maybe this nature thing will grow.