Get outside & improve your mood
For many who feel upset or stressed out, it’s natural to want to go for a ride to clear your mind. New research, published in the journal People and Nature, has found that getting outside and surrounding yourself with greenery—even in an urban area—is, in fact, a proven way to boost your mood. What is even more surprising is the extent to which your mood can be boosted.
For three months, researchers at the University of Vermont (UVM) combed through hundreds of tweets a day posted from 160 parks throughout San Francisco. Then, they used an online tool called a hedonometer to measure the happiness of each tweet.
The hedonometer includes a sentiment dictionary for over 10,000 of the most common words. The words included in people’s tweets were then rated on a scale from 1 (least happy) to 9 (most happy). For instance, the word “sunshine” has a score of 7.9 and the word “traffic” has a score of 3.3, the study explains.
Here’s what the researchers found: Those who tweeted from all parks in San Francisco were happier by 0.23 points on the hedonometer scale compared to baseline tweets. Specifically, those who tweeted from regional parks were 0.26 points happier, those who tweeted from neighborhood parks and playgrounds were 0.21 points happier, and those who tweeted from civic plazas or squares were 0.16 points happier.
All park-related tweets had an average sentiment score of 6.43.
So what does all that mean? Here’s a good way to put it into context:
“As a point of reference, the average day on Twitter in 2016 had a sentiment of 6.04, and Christmas Day was the happiest day in 2016 with a sentiment of 6.26. Thus, across our user pool, tweets during visits to urban parks exhibited a similar increase in sentiment as the jump on Christmas Day for Twitter as a whole,” according to the study.
So what exactly is responsible for this uptick in your mood when you get outside and see some green? There are a few possible reasons, according to Aaron Schwartz, Ph.D.(c), of UVM’s Gund Institute for Environment.
“The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans have an innate affinity to the natural environment in which we evolved in, which would have included a variety of plant life,” he told Bicycling. “Another perspective is that these environments can offer a respite from modern life, leading to a physiological reduction in stress.” (Previous research published in the journal Extreme Physiology & Medicine supports Schwartz’s latter theory.)
And while the tweets Schwartz and his colleagues collected weren’t necessarily from cyclists, he believes that you’ll be happier in a park no matter what you’re doing.
“We found that tweets were happier from all parks, even the less green civic plazas and squares,” Schwartz said. “Riding your bike to any outdoor public space would offer the opportunity for some restoration.”
So get outside today and improve your mood!
Article originally posted on Bicycling.com