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The scientific reason people feel calmer when it’s snowing

The scientific reason people feel calmer when it’s snowing
Posted at 12:05 PM, Jan 23, 2024

When you go outside after a decent snowfall, things feel different. It may be just as cold, and you’re in the same place — but a world blanketed in fresh snow somehow feels quieter, more peaceful, more pristine.

Why is that?

It isn’t just perception. Science shows there is a real calming effect to snow.

First, snow dampens sound. It’s not just that birds get less active during a snowfall or that people are indoors as opposed to bustling outside. Acoustic research studied at the University of Kentucky found that snow has a sound-absorbing quality just like foam padding and other sound-quieting methods. It falls at 0.6 on a scale of 0 to 1, where 1 is total silence and 0 is loud. (You’ll need at least a few inches of snow for the quieting effect to occur.)

winter scene of snowfall

“Generally after a snowfall, the sound absorption is going to be at a maximum then,” David Herrin, a professor at the University of Kentucky’s College of Engineering, told AccuWeather. “After a snow has gotten hard or icy, then a lot of the sound is going to bounce back or be reflected at that point.”

A meteorologist at Weather Nation pointed out that the gaps in snow create tiny air pockets that trap sound.

MORE: This inflatable snowmobile sled seats two for winter fun

Snow only falls when the temperature drops. The colder it is, the denser the air gets, making it harder for sound to travel.

Side note: The satisfying crunching sound of snow beneath your feet or when packing a good snowball is actually louder at colder temperatures. This is because at lower temps there is increased friction between snow grains as they compress under your weight.

Another reason why snow is calming? A pure white coating on everything covers up the visual busyness you’d normally see. The snow creates a blank canvas and a visually relaxing scene that’s soothing to the eyes.

Add to this the positive benefits of being outdoors and the boost you get from exercising — and getting out in the snow is an extra aid.

kids sledding in snow

MORE: The 10 best scenic winter train rides in North America

According to an New York University study, it’s good to mix up what you do, too. “People feel happier when they have more variety in their daily routines — when they go to novel places and have a wider array of experiences,” said NYU associate professor of psychology Catherine Hartley, who co-authored a paper on the topic. “The opposite is also likely true: positive feelings may drive people to seek out these rewarding experiences more frequently.”

So, going outside in the snow? Good idea. Going outside in the snow to do something active? Even better. Going outside in the snow to different places to be active? The best.

If you can’t get outside in the snow, even looking at photos or videos of the white stuff can have a calming effect. So, don’t fret, warm weather dwellers — YouTube has calming snow videos.

Do you feel calmer after it snows?

The scientific reason people feel calmer when it’s snowing originally appeared on

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