4 Ways to Let Nature De-Stress You - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog


4 Ways to Let Nature De-Stress You


My enchantment with the outdoors began when I was a kid. My mom and dad would schlep the family to Muskoka each summer. Despite my brother and I inevitably getting into a fight over back-seat territory encroachments, we always got excited when the roads got smaller and the cliffs higher, as this meant we were getting closer. Closer to the dock where we would take a water taxi to our little private island and log cottage on it. Closer to playing chess while watching boats zoom by, outdoor adventures and the constant smell of cedar and evergreens.

4 Ways to Let Nature De-Stress You

My brother and I playing a game at the cottage (love the acid-wash jean shorts, Simon!)

My brother and I would climb trees, explore the woods and take the canoe out on the lake with Dad. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? It was. But as I got older, I found myself retreat from nature; I was tied to my career, my phone and the concrete streets of NYC. I won’t lie — I became more and more stressed and anxiety-ridden. Maybe you can relate.

A few years ago, I decided to put an end to this madness and went on a quest to save my sanity. I found ways to get active in nature — no matter what city I’m in. (But I put together some specific tips just for my fellow New Yorkers.)

Here are four simple ways I found to de-stress:

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A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.


  1. Charleen Washington

    I totally love these tips! It’s very important and much needed to take a break from the busy routined lifestyle! Try to avoid your cell phone as much as you can. No laptops, No Tv. Try and stay away from every gadget that connects you with the world. Just go on a hike. Take your camera along! Capture everything you wish to. It’ll work like a miracle, and you’ll feel so much better. 🙂

  2. Shelley Donalds

    Sometimes the big city life really depresses me, so I need to take a break and I go to the nearest park and just admire the nature. Just sit in an open area where I can see the nature (trees, birds, may be hills,water etc.) And think, without them, what would be world like? Then I start feeling more relaxed and appreciative about everything in my life.

  3. Ingrid Winston

    I had a major bird watching weekend! On Saturday I went on the bird watching tour in Prospect Park and Sunday my husband and I went to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. It’s warbler migration time and I saw several kinds in both parks. I am just a beginner which is why it’s good to go with the tour, to hear from the experts. Everyone seemed to be out enjoying nature. 🙂

  4. Winona Miller

    The Madison Square Park is EVERYTHING! A true treasure in the city! There is always something interesting going on in this well kept park. Free wifi, live events, sculpture displays, pretty flowers & fall foliage. Pick up your lunch, sit here, enjoy the people watching. The squirrels are uber friendly. Don’t be surprised if one climbs up your leg or jumps on your shoulder to see what you’re eating.

  5. Brenda Nelson

    Great tips for those who enjoy a hike or a jog out in the nature! If you are lazy, and don’t enjoy hiking, these may not be the places for you. 😉 Great places to relax and enjoy the tranquility of nature.

  6. Leah Helms

    Great post, however some of these places are not that well known, and almost a secret spot for some. Places are kept secret for a reason. The unwanted and unappreciative people are the reason why these amazing spots are getting destroyed… I can see your good intnetions, but spreading the word about cherished paradises does more damage than good.

  7. Loraine Aguilar

    Great piece, love. Such great tips too. I have enjoyed many of these spots. Brought out lots of memories. As much as I’m having a lot of fun during my current visit to Asia, I can’t wait to go back home to New York!

  8. Teresa Tanner

    I love these! But I don’t get to spend enough time in New York to do these. I only visit once a week every month for work meetings. I would love to see a San Francisco version of this guide! PLEASE! 🙂

  9. Carolyn Robertson

    No lie, I just got a little jealous because of how beautiful and tranquil these places were. Thank you for posting this. I’ll take some time off the busy city life and enjoy a day off at one of these beautiful parks this weekend, even for a few hours. 🙂

  10. Nancy Musselman

    I love these tips! I will make it a priority to visit all the mentioned places. Madison Square Park is my favorite out of all. Such a great place to hang out. The changing artwork in the main lawn is fun to see as well. It’s a good place to go with a book and relax for a while, and often gets some light breezes through.

    • Gerry Carlton

      So true!!! One of the best places for a quick rest in Midtown. Especially if you have kids and need to take a break: music, art, park creative workshops–there’s always something going on! 🙂

  11. Dorothy Harris

    Thanks for the tips! CitiBike sounds so fun! I was at the Brooklyn Bridge park on Sunday. I had a wonderful afternoon walking through the park and reading my book. Next time, I want to rent a Citibike across Brooklyn Bridge into the park (I heard there’s bike valet!)

  12. Irene Morales

    Amazing tips. Havent’t visited most of the recommended parks, but out of the ones I’ve been to Brooklyn Bridge Park is my favorite. This place is the best place in the entire NYC! It’s just the Perfect place to enjoy your spring/summer days here. It’s an amazing place to have a walk or even a run and the view is just impeccably amazing.

    • Carol Warren

      I ageee with you. It has become my go-to spot whenever I need to refocus and reflect. 🙂

  13. Lauren Gilson

    Growing up in New England, I canoed on lots of ponds and rivers. Mostly we kept our canoe under our house, and easily hoisted it onto our orange Volvo station wagon when we wanted to bring it somewhere, but I remember for a period of time we kept it on someone’s land on Bare Hill Pond, so I could go out on the pond without my parents (before I knew how to drive.) Every year on Rosh Hashanah, I try to go somewhere beautiful and outdoors for reflection, and one year I went to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, where I remember gazing out at Jamaica Bay and wondering how I could get out there in a kayak. As soon as I got into the water, I was enveloped in a familiar calm. Maybe it was the negative ions from the water, or maybe just the physical memory of immersion, but I felt at home out there — almost. 🙂

  14. Janet Roper

    I completely agree on Fahnestock! It’s a place with beautiful views and nice hiking paths. Nice lakes to see and they have picnic tables and a beach to swim. You can rent a boat and fish or just paddle around.. All in all it is a great place to come visit and relax. or hike. Check it out and enjoy your day.

  15. Catherine White

    Brooklyn Bridge Park sounds awesome! I heard that it’s really great for an out of town Sunday visit to Brooklyn. I should do it sometime soon.

    • Camila Hilhorst

      It’s true! Always clean and peaceful.. My family and I enjoy going t here a lot. It has become a nice little getaway for family bonding. 🙂

    • Amanda Roberts

      Best views of NYC, plenty of seating and cool areas to explore. Awesome at sunset and stunningly beautiful after dark. 🙂

  16. Sibel Jenkinson

    I really love Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge! One of my absolute favorite places in the city. It’s an easy subway ride to the Broad Channel stop on the A — and then a little walk up the heavily trafficked Cross Bay Boulevard. But you feel a world away. Not at all like you’re in New York City.

  17. Pearl Nguyen

    A wildlife refuge in New York City… YES, it does exist! Two words to describe this place, beautiful and serene. The splendor of nature at its best. I truly believe that this is NYC’s best kept secret.

  18. Ariana Rhyder

    Hi, Hilary. I love your suggestions. Great place to get away from the stressful city life within the city! Lovely ways of to enjoy the break from the concrete jungle!

  19. Jae Medina

    Great tips and recommendations! I have thought about visiting the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge for a long time. This weekend I’m determined to take my nephew there. 🙂

  20. Matilda Parker

    Never been on a camping trip but I like to visit the “Fahnestock Winter Park” for cross-country skiing. This is the only park I know of in the area that:

    a) has groomed trails, for both classic and skate skiing
    b) offers ski and equipment rentals
    c) prohibits walkers and dogs, so the trails don’t get messed up

  21. Dana Rosatti

    I live quite near Fahnestock Sate Park. There is something there for most people all seasons. If you live with-in 100 miles in any direction you need to take a trip here .

  22. Franny Pimms

    I love parks in the city. All of them. The small, large, those with lots of seating and those without. Pretty much any park on my paths was a park I spent time in.

  23. Sarah Ubitel

    Gosh, I totally let myself slip too. I used to love being in nature and would take weekly adventures, mostly on saturday’s. Now that the weather is warming up, I’m gonna brush off my old sneaks and make a few friends take a trek this weekend : )

  24. Leslie Williams

    Madison Square Park is absolutely beautiful, even at night! It is like an oasis as directly outside of the park are cars, trucks and buses spewing their fumes of exhaust and bellowing car horns while local pedestrians are doing a mad dash of getting from one side of the street to the other. Yes, a little sense of calm is much appreciated once within Madison Square Parks small haven.

    • Nicky Bryan

      You’re right! Madison Square Park is a little gem in Manhattan. 🙂

  25. Ketty Ben

    I think, Reading a book that captivates your interest and draws you in is a great way to take a break and reduce stress. Reading is also very helpful to reduce stress

  26. Lucia Pittman

    Wow.. Even if we live in an urban environment, we can find natural settings. Just reading it makes me slow down and feel calmer. I’ve read that if we don’t take time to de-stress when we’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, our work will be negatively impacted and our life won’t feel as healthy or balanced. It’s time to step outside and revel in the wonders of nature. I will take advantage of summer and fall weather to enjoy being outside.

  27. Jenny Permel

    I love hiking. hiking is an excellent way to relieve stress, it is important to always be prepared on a hike. Bring a first aid kit, extra water and a mobile phone that gets reception in the area.

  28. Lulia Jan

    I agree that It is very helpful to take a walk in the park: Spending time in nature has been linked to stress reduction. Very interesting tips 🙂

  29. Issabell Symon

    One of the strongest ways hiking can relieve stress is through relaxation. Although hiking is aerobic exercise, it need not be strenuous, so it can help tremendously in promoting relaxation through a direct experience of nature up close.

  30. Pasty Clin

    Amazing tips! A few minute walk is very helpful to reduce the stress.Make your daily walk a group activity for the added stress-relieving benefits of spending time with friends and developing strong social bonds.

  31. Oh I love biking!!! But I don’t have much opportunity to do such activity recently in FL…

  32. Monika Smith

    Great article! I think Hiking’s effectiveness as a stress-relief technique comes from a combination of healthy things that hiking rolls into one. Between aerobic exercise, naturally calming surroundings and the freedom to think and relax freely for extended periods of time, hiking is one of the most effective methods for combating stress on a regular basis.

  33. Leslie Williams

    I live right down the road. This is my favorite hiking location in the area. People of all abilities can hike here. Camping with friends is so much fun. 🙂

  34. I’d like to support your second tip: strolling / walking it off with a study authored by Gregory Bratman and published at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    The study proved scientific basis that “taking a walk” alleviates stress and it found out that the key is walking in nature (parks, woods, etc) and NOT in an urban environment.

  35. Emily Wentz

    I’ve been to Fahnestock many times in all seasons and it never fails to disappoint. Pelton pond is great for a quick hike around a nice scenic lake. Great campsites and BBQ pits. The AT runs through here and is a blast to hike up and back. 🙂

    • Shannon Bradley

      Water in the lake was very dirty and my youngest son got a stomach virus with severe diarrhea starting a day after he swam there. Beware!

  36. Naincy Winget

    Even just looking at photos of nature in a quiet room has a greater cognitive boost than walking down a busy street.You may actually not even have to enjoy the park, botanical garden, or arboretum to get the benefit. “You don’t necessarily have to enjoy the walk to get the benefit. What you like is not necessarily going to be good for you.” For them, just looking at images of nature engages .It is also very beneficial.

  37. Olivia Peterson

    Beautiful park. I’m lucky to live next to so many beautiful places in the Hudson Valley. This is one of those places that I’m happy to visit often. 🙂

  38. Cassi Braun

    Growing up in Yorktown, Clarence Fahnestock was once a weekly summer destination for my family. I loved swimming here, hiking and just wasting away the lazy days of endless childhood summers.

  39. Emma Blackwood

    Never been camping before, but I’ve had a few CitiBike experiences. I wish I could make it at least a weekly thing. But you know the city life, always too busy. Too difficult to spare time. 🙁

  40. Kaitlyn Barrett

    Nature is indeed very relaxing. I travel out of habit and addiction normally to wilderness areas to be surrounded by nature by choice. It lets me remember what’s important and appreciate what I’ve left behind.

  41. Colleen Frasier

    Awesome tips, Hilary! I’ll plan my weekened based on the tips you gave. One questions though… Do you know if Clarence Fahnestock State Park allows pets? Thanks. 🙂

    • Gwen Keaton

      Dogs allowed, $15 camp fee includes a site with grill and HOT showers! 😀 Most of my campground experience has been cold showers. lol There are so much things to do in the area as well. You will just fall in love with the nature and the neighborhood.

  42. I personally think that hiking is the most “obvious” way to get out and be in touch with nature, but it isn’t for me… My bad 🙁

    Nature de-stresses me in a different way — cacti in my room! Looking at them gives me a shot of calmness. I also walk around the campus, esp in the morning (except winter of course), I love the scent of leaves.

  43. Fortunately, I’m able to do these activities once in a while. I’m soooo in love with nature! But would love trying them on NYC (your recommended places!).

    And oh, that picture of you with your brother is fantastic! You look very charming — then and now 😉

  44. Great practical tips! I agree that nature can help restore mental health. I walk, I bike but I’m not sure if I can still hike and camp (used to these when I was younger).

  45. Fantastic article! I need all activities that can lessen stress. I stroll a lot — usually just around the neighborhood, thanks for giving me an idea to try explore “Madison Square Park in the Flatiron District.”

  46. Melani Kalev

    I love hiking! Since my home moved to Switzerland 4 years ago, I’ve grown to love the nature more and more. There are many hiking trails here, offering a lot of amazing views. It find it great when people use this opportunity to get closer back to the nature, even though they live in the city 🙂

  47. I started doing exactly this about a year ago. The city was really wearing me down and I had to reconnect with nature, even if it meant walking through the park on the way to work, or taking day trips on the weekend up to Hudson Valley. It’s made such a difference. I feel like a “normal” person again : )

  48. Great suggestions! I like camping every now and then. Challenge my manly skills. Hahaha!

  49. Gabrielle Williams

    Do you think the camping grounds are great for kids? Would love to bring them out some time.

    • Arabella Clarington

      I would also love to bring my kids!

  50. Francis Woods

    Would love to try camping in Stone Tavern Farm, anyone wanna join?

  51. Francis Woods

    Central Park is one of my usual haunts, y’all should say hi to me when you see me there!!! 😀

    • Hannah Meyers

      I think I did see you there. Were you rocking the latest Kate Hudson sportswear? I also go to Central Park every now and then. Maybe we can run together?

  52. Love the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens!

    • Francis Woods

      I’ve been here a couple of times! Wonder why I didn’t see you? When do you go?

  53. Courtney Watson

    Hmmm… I’d like to try Anthony’s nose… I’m pretty sure it’s a “gem” and I’m really excited hiking there soon!

    • Francis Woods

      Do you like to “hike” Courtney? 😀 Maybe you can rub off some of that on me!

      • Courtney Watson

        I do, Francis! Come on, let’s talk! I would be very glad to have you as one of my hiking buddies 😉

  54. When I need to clear my head, I go to The Ramble in Central Park too. I think I saw you there this weekend – were you there?? I wanted to say hi but wasn’t sure…

    • I was in Paris and Belgium, actually! But if you see me there again (I’m often there after work), definitely say hello 🙂

    • Francis Woods

      I will definitely keep an eye on you there, Ansley! 😀 I’m sure if I see a pretty blonde with a bob – that’s you!

  55. I’ve actually never gone camping! I looked up the areas you mentioned in the article and they all look interesting. Do you know what the crowd is like at them? Which one is more fun? Is there a LGBT campground?? 😉

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