Parks Will Make You Smarter

Yesterday, I mentioned how London demonstrates the importance of small, urban gardens. Now, as it turns out, those kinds of spaces may actually make city-dwellers smarter.

The Atlantic Cities reported Monday that urban parks can offer people’s minds a chance to refresh:

In simple terms, when we’re in a setting with a great deal of stimulation, like a city, we expend a great deal of direct attention on tasks like avoiding traffic and fellow pedestrians. When we’re interacting with nature, however, we use an indirect form of attention that essentially gives our brain a chance to refresh, much like sleep.

The article cites a study from Psychological Science and notes that “brief interactions with nature can produce marked increases in cognitive control.” The article then cites a second study to emphasis the health benefits of urban greenery:

The second conclusion, more germane for our purposes, is that “incorporating nearby nature into urban environments may counteract” some of the cognitive strains placed on the brain by the city, the authors write. Recent research has suggested economic and crime benefits of urban greenery; now advocates can legitimately add “public health” to their list of arguments.

When I think of the importance of parks, or “intimate urban gardens” as I’ve written before, I tend to think of them as emotional or even spiritual assets. They provide areas of respite and relaxation.

But as the studies mentioned by The Altantic Cities demonstrate, parks and gardens actually make cities smarter, more economically vibrant, and safer. In that light, it would be negligent not to include them in a metropolitan vision.

BYU’s botany pond and the surrounding park gets close to what I think of when I talk about urban parks and gardens. But it still has some weakness, such as lying up against a street and being fairly noisy.

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