In honor of Earth Day, consider visiting your local city park–it could improve your mood.

Much of modern life is spent inside, with the few glimpses of sky occurring during walks from the car to the office building or grocery store. All the indoor lighting and controlled temperatures divorce humans from their natural element. Over time, feeling cut off from nature can impact mood.

For residents living in heavily urbanized areas with few green spaces, those feelings may be even more pronounced, according to researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School. The study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, compared mental health in people who relocated to greener cities to those who moved to less green urban areas.

Moving to a greener city improves mental health long after the move, researchers found. 

Meanwhile, happiness levels for people who moved to more urbanized areas with fewer parks experienced lower happiness levels, but only until they moved. After settling into the new locales, their moods returned to previous levels.

Resident access to green areas in cities is also a key indicator of mental health, researchers discovered. 

The study built on earlier research by UK researchers that found just five minutes of outdoor exercise can lift a person’s spirits. Researchers agree that green spaces are critical for the health and well-being of urban residents, and urge cities to focus on incorporating parks into growth plans.

Most cities have some form of green space, and even suburbs frequently require developers to incorporate parks into master planned communities. Urban parks have been around since the 1800s, however as more people moved into the suburbs after World War II, investment in urban parks waned, according to the City Parks Alliance, a non-profit supporting urban spaces.

Now, with interest in urban living again attracting more people in the U.S. into city centers, creating urban parks has become an important issue, particularly in light of their ability to make people happy. Earth Day offers a perfect time to show support to local parks by visiting them, enjoying the scenery and the mood lift they provide.

Do you think your city has enough green space? 

Image by David Herrera via Flickr

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