Visiting a park can make you as happy as Christmas

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Shutterstock.com/ Anon Prasert

Do you remember those magical moments each year when you first saw the Christmas tree light up your living room? You might have experienced a rush of warm feelings and a joyful beating of your heart. Even if it isn’t Christmas, you can experience those feelings in a different way. It’s just a walk in the park.

Researchers at the University of Vermont used social media posts to examine the moods of Twitter users after they visited local parks. Those who spent time among the trees expressed happier feelings with fewer negative side notes. The effect of their outdoor activity lasted for hours afterward.

It took researchers three months to comb through Twitter feeds. They were looking for references to experiences taking place in nature. They focused on tweets that people made in city parks around San Francisco. Here are some of their findings:

  • People experienced happier moods during their time in the parks.
  • Twitter users employed more positive words and expressed exuberant sentiments in their tweets.
  • The mood lasted long after their park visit.
  • The larger the park, and the more trees, the better the effect on the person.

Using a scale called a hedonometer, the graduate student researchers measured moods according to the use of positive words. Visiting a park measured at the same level of happiness as if a person were experiencing Christmas day. That’s a significant mood lift for many people!

National parks

Our national parks are a part of our natural heritage. Whether you need to plan a long-term trip or you live nearby and can just drop in, visit the national parks. According to the research, the wide-open wild spaces will do you the most amount of good!

State parks

State parks tend to be closer to more people. They have beautiful green spaces, waterways, and habitat areas for watching wildlife. Visiting a state park at various times of the year can do wonders for your mood.

Local city parks

For a quick game of frisbee or an afternoon stroll, nothing beats the city parks that serve many urban areas. These tend to be smaller, but they still serve as a mood booster. They can become part of a weekly routine. You may even meet a new friend while spending time in the park.

The benefits don’t stop there

Spending time in nature has always been recognized as a source of happiness and health. Sometimes we get bogged down in thinking of it as a chore. We unwittingly rob ourselves of the very benefits that are waiting to help us! Going outside, even briefly, improves mood, focus, and other cognitive functions. It helps to lower blood pressure and improve blood sugar. Heart and lungs get to exercise. Legs stretch and eyes find new things to look at. The effect can be as good as a Christmas morning, so give it a try.