How To Improve Your Mental Health Naturally
The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the “happiness” of people’s words to monitor the national mood. Recently, that mood is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started the project.
They call the tweet analysis the Hedonometer. It relies on surveys of thousands of people who rate words indicating happiness.
“Laughter” gets an 8.50, “jail” gets a 1.76. They use these scores to measure the mood of Twitter traffic.
These same tweets also indicate a potential salve. Before pandemic lockdowns began, doctoral student Aaron Schwartz compared tweets before, during and after visits to 150 parks, playgrounds and plazas in San Francisco. He found that park visits corresponded with a spike in happiness, followed by an afterglow lasting up to four hours.
Tweets from parks contained fewer negative words such as “no,” “not” and “can’t,” and fewer first-person pronouns like “I” and “me.” It seems that nature makes people more positive and less self-obsessed.
Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger.
Scholars who study conservation and how nature contributes to human well-being see opening up parks and creating new ones as a straightforward remedy for the current blues.
Recent surveys of park visitors around the University of Vermont have shown people using green spaces more since COVID-19 lock downs began. Many people reported that parks were highly important to their well-being.
The powerful effects of nature are strongest in large parks with more trees. Their impact on happiness is real, measurable and lasting.
Twitter records show that parks increase happiness to a level similar to the bounce at Christmas, which typically is the happiest day of the year. Schwartz has since expanded his Twitter study to the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and found this bounce everywhere.
Parks and public spaces won’t cure COVID-19, but there is growing evidence that parks contribute to mental and physical health in a range of communities.