For many folks that lived in urban areas prior to the pandemic, rural areas seemed like a wonderful solution to escape to. While many urban dwellers ultimately chose to escape to places like Idaho, Florida, and Texas ... most of us weren't lucky enough to have the resources to completely move. As we continue to recover from the pandemic though, this choice of rural vs urban living continues to be an important issue to consider in terms of quality of life and mental health.
Of course, there are benefits of city living. You can walk to shops and restaurants. There are museums and cultural venues. You can meet people from all backgrounds and parts of the world. Living in a city is exciting, there are good job opportunities, and it can be fulfilling overall.
You do need to give yourself the chance to regularly escape from everything around you, however. When you live in a big city, mental health effects aren’t always positive.
Taking regular trips and weekend getaways can help calm your nervous system and relax your mind.
Many city residents have realized this in the past couple of years in particular. They’re choosing destinations that might seem quirkier or more under-the-radar to disconnect. For example, Branson, Missouri is a popular destination in the Ozark Mountains. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular in the country for visitors, and many of them come from big cities.
There are also a lot of inns and hotels offering a full rural living experience. Blackberry Farm, in Maryville, Tennessee not far from the Smoky Mountains is a luxury retreat where you can harvest your own food, fly fish and more. It draws the likes of urbanites looking for an escape and even celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow.
With that in mind, the following are things to know about how living in a city can affect your mental health and how even just a night or two away regularly can help combat the adverse effects of this lifestyle.
How Living In a Big City Affects Your Mental Health and Well-Being
One of the big factors about living in a city that can have a detrimental effect on your mental health, as mentioned, is the stimulation.
Researchers find people who live in urban areas are 21% more likely to have an anxiety disorder than people living in rural areas. They’re 39% more likely to have a mood disorder.
Among urbanites, the rates of anger management problems, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD are higher. This is true for more severe psychological disorders as well, like paranoia and schizophrenia.
According to psychiatrists, the constant stimulation in cities can put your body into what’s known as a fight-or-flight response. When you’re consistently in that stress state, it can make you more likely to develop a variety of mental health disorders, including substance use, anxiety and depression.
Cities also affect what is dubbed your psychological immune system. If you are already predisposed to developing a psychological disorder, this can be particularly impactful. Environmental stress can increase your risk of developing psychiatric disorders.
Even when surrounded by the resources of a big city, young people may feel there’s a stigma, so they don’t talk about what they’re going through. Young adults are especially likely to experience burnout and physical and mental exhaustion.
In cities, you also tend to be surrounded by people constantly on the go, making you think you have to be the same way.
When you live in a city, it affects your mental health. Your physical health is also affected. You’re exposed to excessive noise and pollution, leading to damage to your cardiovascular health. The noise at all hours of the day and night can affect the quality of your sleep. It also causes cortisol levels to spike.
These reasons all indicate why you need to not just take care of yourself in your daily life but also travel and get outside of the city consistently.
Traveling Boosts Your Mood and Happiness
When you travel, you will feel happier, and it can reduce your stress. Your cortisol levels will drop. Even just a brief respite from the stress of your daily life can help you reflect on your goals and reprioritize different things in your life.
According to one study, 80% of surveyed Americans had significant drops in stress levels after just one or two days of travel.
When you travel, even if it’s not far from home, you’re getting out of the daily grind that is your life. You’re rewiring your brain through new experiences, making you feel more confident and improving your mood.
Often when we spend too much time in the same place, within the same routine, we feel trapped. That affects our cognition and mental health. Even just the joy that comes from planning a trip can help your mental health.
Make it a goal to leave the city once a month at least. You can take the train or a road trip. It doesn’t even have to be an overnight trip—you can take a day trip and still get benefits.
When you get back to the city, you’re going to feel more recharged and once again remember what you like about living there.
Along with those shorter, regular weekend getaways, try to plan a more extensive vacation once a year.
Other Benefits of Even Just a Quick Trip
We’ve talked a lot about the mental benefits of a weekend getaway, but your physical health is going to improve too. People who take vacations, including short ones, have been shown to have a reduced risk of heart disease.
In one study, men who didn’t take a vacation at least once a year were at a 21% higher death risk in general. Thirty-two percent of those men in the study were more likely to die of a heart attack.
You can disconnect from society in general, including your phone and devices. You need this quiet time when you’re used to constantly being surrounded by people.
If you have a significant other, you can also strengthen your relationship with them during weekend getaways. Otherwise, you both might always be going rather than reconnecting.
Taking the time to break away from the hustle and bustle might also encourage you to make a more permanent change to benefit your lifestyle and your mental well-being. Perhaps taking a camping trip amongst nature will encourage you to live off-grid - you can find the best solar generator for off grid living and still work remotely while living a slower pace of life amongst the great outdoors. Such a change could benefit your health to no end, as you’ll likely be breathing fresher air away from the busy city roads and stressing less thanks to a less distracting environment.
It’s clear to see how beneficial that traveling and spending time outside in general can have on your mental health and well-being. There’s no time like the present to book yourself a trip away!