A tabletop fountain with plants. A tabletop fountain is an easy way to create a relaxing indoor space. (Photo: FotoHelin/Shutterstock)

You may have wondered why a lot of doctor's and dentist's offices have fish tanks. While fish are fun and distracting to look at, it's most likely that the medical professionals are aiming to keep their waiting areas low-stress, so their patients walk into their appointments with less anxiety. And that's down to the soft bubbling of the fish tank's water pump.

Just like the sound of ocean waves lapping at the shore, the sound of running water is almost universally soothing. Waterfalls are often considered a place for reflection and meditation for this reason. And for many of us, the random melody of a burbling stream is the ultimate "chill" sound.

Why nature noises calm us down

Small water fountain and plant pot as table decoration. Even a small tabletop fountain can make a workspace or dining area more relaxed. (Photo: Edson Nerone/Shutterstock)

Unlike sharper sounds, repetitive, yet non-identical, natural noises subconsciously remind us that everything is OK.

"These slow, whooshing noises are the sounds of non-threats, which is why they work to calm people," Orfeu Buxton, a biobehavioral health professor at Pennsylvania State University told LiveScience. "It's like they're saying: 'Don't worry, don't worry, don't worry.'"

In addition to bringing a sense of peace to your indoor space, a fountain can also gently block outside noise.

You don't need to go as far as setting up a fish tank (which is costly and requires a fair amount of upkeep) to bring this aural relaxation to your own home.

Relaxing spiritual Feng Shui altar set with nature, water element. Tabletop small electrical fountain with water pouring cups. On wooden table with black background. Adding semi-precious stones to a home fountain can be an easy way to add color and sparkle. (Photo: FotoHelin/Shutterstock)

I recently created a small indoor fountain for my workspace, and I've not only noticed stress-reduction benefits, but my cat also enjoys sipping from it. I have a home office, so I enjoy the fountain even when I'm not working.

But if you work in an office away from home, a fountain could make your workday less stressful, though you might want to check with your coworkers first if you have a more open-plan office situation.

Wherever you want to experiment with an indoor fountain, there are plenty of pre-made home versions that will sit on a tabletop and simply need to be plugged in and filled with water before they're ready to go.

But you can also make one yourself, using some basic and relatively inexpensive materials, like I did. I used washed-off rocks from the woods near my house, a big bowl I already had, and a fish-tank pump that had been sitting in a box. Then I assembled them similar to way it's done in the video above.

If you don't already have these materials, you might have to buy some of them — though you can also check in with a local Buy Nothing group, friends, or family to see who might have these items sitting in their garage or attic and get them for free.

Jar fountain decoration in an indoor setting. A larger fountain can be brought indoors and surrounded by plants or treated as a decorative element similar to a piece of sculpture. (Photo: Bubbers BB/Shutterstock)

If you have the space, you could also get a larger fountain (often sold at garden centers for outdoor garden spaces), and move it indoors. Be sure to determine how far the water might splash (you can mitigate splashes with rocks or screens if you need to), but otherwise, an indoor fountain sitting on the floor can work as well indoors as it would outside.

Whatever size works for you, consider experimenting with adding quartz crystals or other stones to your fountain, which will add visual interest and also change the sound the water makes. Surrounding the fountain with plants (especially plants that love damp air, like ferns) will benefit your greenery as well as adding moisture to your indoor air.

You can't go wrong with an indoor fountain; if you don't love it, you can always move it outside, and if you make it yourself, you can dissemble it. But chances are you'll keep it around — 1,000 doctor's offices can't be wrong about the soothing effects of running water.

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

How an indoor fountain can help you relax
The soothing sound of burbling water is one of the simplest ways to bring a sense of calm to any space.