Parks and Open Space: Naturally Beneficial
How Utah Cities, Developers, Landscape Architects, Engineers and Planners can work together to provide these naturally beneficial spaces
by Seth Vance, Land Planning Department Manager
Since the beginning of the pandemic and social isolation, most people can attest to increased stress and anxiety with fewer options to relieve that stress. The good news is that there is a simple and effective way people can lift their spirits and reduce stress – spend some time in nature.
A study from the University of Vermont found that visiting a city park can make you as happy as you feel on Christmas day. The study shows that visitors to urban parks use happier words and express less negativity on Twitter than before their visit — and that their elevated mood lasts for up to four hours. The effect is so strong that it’s equivalent to the mood spike on Christmas, the happiest day each year on Twitter (Science Daily).
Although the study recognizes that Twitter users are not a representative sample of all people, they do represent a broad demographic. This approach gives a new window for scientists onto the shifting moods of very large groups. As for me, I am not an active Twitter user, but if I were, I’m confident that my happiest posts would be from my outdoor adventures in the easily accessible Utah parks and mountains (assuming I had cell service).
Interacting with nature is starting to be recognized as an important way to improve mental health and well-being. With Utah becoming increasingly more urban, and with almost 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. living with a mental illness, it is important that we landscape architects, planners, and engineers work with our cities and governments to create parks and open spaces within our cities that will help balance the negative impacts of a harsh urban environment. Being in nature offers restorative benefits not available for purchase in a store or downloadable on a screen.
In addition to improving our physical and psychological health, well-designed and maintained city open spaces strengthen our communities and make our neighborhoods more attractive. They attract tourists, boost the local economy, and improve the environment by generating oxygen, combatting air pollution, recycling water, and controlling soil erosion.
Together with cities, developers, and home builders, Focus Engineering & Surveying is proud to help design and build a better Utah and create spaces where people can feel their best and take refuge from the stresses of life. And the next time you’re feeling down or need an extra boost, remember to find your nearest park and take a quick lap under the tree canopy.