We engineers are not supposed to make statements like this. We are not a bunch of hippies after all, we are in the business of covering the world in concrete and coming up with cynical “technical justifications” for why that is the right thing to do. So, if you are going to tell an old-school engineer that parks and trees make people happy, you need a technical justification for that. Well, the body of evidence is growing and I am collecting references so I have them handy. Here is an article about people walking around in parks with portable brain scanners attached to their heads. And guess what, it makes them happy!
When the volunteers made their way through the urbanized, busy areas, particularly the heavily trafficked commercial district at the end of their walk, their brain wave patterns consistently showed that they were more aroused, attentive and frustrated than when they walked through the parkland, where brain-wave readings became more meditative.
While traveling through the park, the walkers were mentally quieter.
Which is not to say that they weren’t paying attention, said Jenny Roe, a professor in the School of the Built Environment at Heriot-Watt University, who oversaw the study. “Natural environments still engage” the brain, she said, but the attention demanded “is effortless. It’s called involuntary attention in psychology. It holds our attention while at the same time allowing scope for reflection,” and providing a palliative to the nonstop attentional demands of typical, city streets.