It’s the first thing in the morning and you’re miserable. You’re stressed, bogged down at your desk with another daunting day of work ahead of you. There’s not much you think you can do to change your mood — living in a city could be stressful — but your mood could swing with simply a walk in the park, according to new research.
A new study conducted by scientists from the University of Vermont found that taking a walk through city parks can lift your mood to where it might be on Christmas morning. The study, published in the People and Nature journal, declared the revelation after analyzing tweets from people who visited parks in an urban city.
“We found that, yes, across all the tweets, people are happier in parks,” said Aaron Schwartz, a UVM graduate student who led the research. “But the effect was stronger in large regional parks with extensive tree cover and vegetation.
Your mind on trees
The three-month-long study examined hundreds of tweets posted by people who visited one of San Francisco’s 160 parks. The study used the hedonometer, an online tool designed to gather and analyze billions of tweets, which can measure each word’s emotional weight. When analyzing tweets from those who visited the parks, volunteers ranked words on a 1-9 scale on which they felt were the happiest and the saddest. Tweeting something like “hahaha” rendered a score around 8.0 while more negative words like “crash” or “jail” scored below 3.0.
The volunteers’ responses each received a score, which was then calculated by researchers for an average happiness score.
In total, 100,000 tweets from nearly 5,000 users were used who made their locations public with geotags. After comparing tweets from before and after park visits, the study found that tweets posted from urban parks in the San Francisco area were happier by 0.23 points, which was considered a large upswing.
“This increase in sentiment is equivalent to that of Christmas Day for Twitter as a whole in the same years,” the scientist wrote in the paper.
Researchers declared that large regional parks with plenty of tree cover and vegetation were the biggest happiness boosters and concrete jungle spots like plazas were the least beneficial.
The study found that negative language such as “not,” “no,” “don’t,” and “can’t” recreated immediately after someone visited an urban park, as did first-person pronouns.
The study was conducted by Aaron J. Schwartz, a graduate student at the University of Vermont, Taylor Ricketts, director of the Gund Institute for Environment at the University of Vermont, Peter Doggs and Chris Danforth, both professors at the University of Vermont’s Complex Systems Center.