Happy trails

Parks in these 10 U.S. cities provide the biggest happiness boost

The votes are in.

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It’s no secret that spending time outdoors has immense benefits for your health.

In cities, parks offer an oasis for residents to reap the much-needed benefits of nature.

Besides providing a noticeable mood boost, they can help relieve the stress of living in an urban area by offering a place to exercise, gather, and relax.

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One research team writing this week in the journal PLOS One wanted to see how urban parks contribute to people’s happiness in cities across the U.S.

They analyzed 1.5 million Twitter posts from the 25 largest cities in the country, gathering data on positive and negative tweets composed while people were in parks.

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They tracked the use of common words like “beautiful” and “garbage” and gave happiness scores to determine how positive each word was.

Overall, people posted more positive messages when they were in parks, rather than outside them. That effect remained the same year-round across the entire cohort of cities.

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Then, the researchers ranked each city park system based on a final happiness benefit score based on the difference in positivity between tweets posted in parks and outside of parks.

Here are the top 10 cities with the happiest park systems, according to researchers:

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10. San Diego

7.3 percent of all tweets sent in the city were posted from parks.

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9. New York

The most populous city in the U.S. had an only slightly higher happiness benefit score than San Diego.

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8. Denver

Though this city had the second-lowest amount of total tweets analyzed, a strong share of positive ones were posted from parks.

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7. Memphis

Posts from 3112 visitors across 163 parks show that greenspaces in this riverside city spark a lot of joy.

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6. Dallas, TX

Over 21,000 tweets from city parks in this locale revealed a lot of positive messages from visitors.

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5. Chicago

Despite its brutal winters, Illinois’ largest city still had a high positivity benefit for parks overall.

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4. Jacksonville

People consistently expressed joy in the sun-drenched parks of Florida’s largest city.

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3. Los Angeles

How about that view? Park-dwellers in Southern California lit up Twitter with enough positive park tweets to put L.A.’s system in third place.

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2. Austin

The Texas capital’s park system was a close runner-up for the top happiness score. Now, a drumroll for first...

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1. Indianapolis

Despite having the lowest park spending per capita in the entire study, Indiana’s capital saw the most positivity in its city parks.

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The researchers did not see any correlation between how much money had been spent on city park systems and the happiness benefit that visitors reaped from it.

However, they did notice that happier cities tended to have larger parks, including spaces larger than 100 acres.

“One possible explanation is that larger parks provide greater opportunities for mental restoration and separation from the taxing environment of the city.”

Schwartz et al, study authors

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