The idea that cities are inherently stressful or that the country is inherently calming isn’t so cut and dry. Some people find the excitement of urban living as not only exciting but also as a source of relaxation. Others may find the boringness of the countryside as a required way to maintain mental calmness.
There’s some neat research that examines why some people are keen for the hustle and bustle of a downtown while others not so much.
But, before you box neurotics as city-types and non-neurotics as country mice, remember how much variation can exist within the respective environments. “Not all urban situations are loud and busy, and not all natural ones are calm and quiet,” Newman says, offering city parks and ziplining as examples of the dichotomy at play here. “A highly neurotic person can still enjoy nature, but maybe their ideal version of a hike includes more boulders, a trail run, some animals.” In other words, when it comes to alleviating anxiety, it’s not the environment so much as what you do in it.
So, do cities and small towns inherently attract separate types of people? Newman speculates this could possibly explain regional stereotypes: Midwestern niceties, the Southern drawl, West Coast chill, Northeastern pent-upness. And Newman says businesses and urban planners should pay attention to these qualities: It might make sense for a national park to showcase the active aspects of mountaineering or whitewater rafting for the Northeast, for example, while Midwestern parks might feature vistas and sunsets.