Research shows that wandering randomly through the city contributes to emotional well-being.
Virginia Woolf called it “street-haunting.” The French describe it as being a “flâneur.” Whatever the term, who knew that roaming around cities could make people happier?
According to two studies by Catherine Hartley of New York University, there was a correlation between how much a person wandered into new and varied locations and their mood ratings.
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The first study had a sample of 100 people from New York and Miami. Using their GPS data throughout three months, the researchers were able to make this connection as the participants also recorded their mood using an app.
The amount of wandering the participants did was able to predict their happiness level later on, but not the other way around.
This showed that wandering could make the participants happy, but being happy did not necessarily mean that the participants would wander more.
In the second study, Hartley focused on the effect of age on wandering. The experiment showed that the amount of wandering increases from 13 years of age until it hits a peak at 18 to 20 years old. After that, it gradually decreases with age.
This makes sense, as younger teenagers would want to explore their surroundings more but are somewhat held back by parents and other authority figures.
Once a person is 18 years old, they have more freedom and agency to go wherever they want. Being able to wander allowed participants to interact with different kinds of neighborhoods, broadening their horizons.
All of these factors—exploration, social connection, and risk-taking—contributed to happiness. Getting to discover the world around us is especially important for young people, but even as we age, perhaps there are still places to discover and experiences that can surprise us.
Banner photo via Pexels by Анастасия Беккер.