Do You Find Cities Soothing Rather than Stressful? You're Not Alone

Do You Find Cities Soothing Rather than Stressful? You're Not Alone

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Nancy Mitchell
Oct 16, 2016
(Image credit: Luciano Mortula/Shutterstock)

We tend to make the assumption that natural environments, with their calm and beauty and slow pace, are more rejuvenating than crowded, noisy cities, and that this is true for everyone. But there's one fascinating study which shows that, for people with a certain personality trait, bustling streetscapes may be just as refreshing as lakes and woods.

Here's how the study worked: Participants were given a thought-suppression test (they were told not to think of a white bear), which was designed to use up their self-control. Then they were given a test to determine how neurotic they were. Then they were given anagrams to solve either of words related to natural environments, or words related to urban environments, which would presumably make them think of said environment. Lastly, they were given an unsolvable anagram. The time the participants spent on the unsolvable anagram was taken as a measure of self-control.

The result? Neurotic folks showed more self-control when given the city words, as opposed to the country words, implying that thinking of those environments calmed them down and made them perform better.

This is a perfect example of a scientific study confirming something you already knew. I've always found New York City, a bustling, crowded city if ever there was one, to be oddly refreshing, even though most of my friends from back home in Texas insist that they could never live here, because all of the noise and movement is just too stressful. So I guess this means I'm neurotic? At any rate, this study seems to indicate that there are different strokes for different folks — and that for some people, blaring car horns and hurrying pedestrians might make for the perfect retreat.

You can read more about the study in New York Magazine's Science of Us.

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