The popular English writer Samuel Johnson once said “Deviation from nature is deviation from happiness". What exactly is happiness though? Many define it as a simple concept like being in good spirits and others have more complex philosophical definitions. The fact of the matter is that all of us have a different interpretation of happiness and what it means to us. In general, happiness can be defined as a state of contentment with life. Everything we do affects it, from seemingly simple things such as how we dress all the way to more broad categories such as where we live. It is no coincidence that taking a walk outside every once in a while just to get some fresh air clears our mind and lifts our mood. In modern day more and more evidence is showing that in fact living in crowded, urban environments is negatively impacting our levels of happiness. In fact, research shows that happiness increases as people live further out- into the rural areas.
Multiple studies have shown that there is a type of “gradient” in which smaller towns and rural areas rate higher in happiness levels compared to those who live in much busier areas such as the central business district of a major city. The most notable is “An urban-rural happiness gradient” by Brian Berry & Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn. In their research, they use data collected by the General Social Survey from 1972- 2008 (36 years) to confirm that in contrast to other parts of the world, the United States shows this “gradient” of happiness between urban and rural areas. Of course correlation does not equal causation, as “happiness” is affected by multiple factors such as wealth, race and so on, but it does show correlation nonetheless (Berry & Okulicz-Kozaryn 2011). As the authors put it, “...
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...ousands of miles for food or medical care. It’s just that being educated in our natural tendencies to be unhappy in urban areas might inspire us to travel more or even just to take a walk outside every once in a while to get a breath of fresh air.
In conclusion, happiness is a combination of multiple factors. What is known is that there does seem to be a correlation between urban and rural environments and happiness. Speculations of what factors could influence one’s happiness in an environment at the end of the day is speculation with no definitive proof. Everyone defines happiness in their own way and it is something that only we personally know how to achieve ourselves. If one thing is for certain, it’s that everybody should live a little and visit different places whenever they can. Even a simple ten minute walk outside a day can make you a much happier person.
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