Finding Peace in Nature: The Path to Mental Well-Being

By: Bridgett McCann

Volume 19, Issue 6, June 2024

The gentle glide of the boat along the St. Lawrence River, the wind tousling my hair, and the sun’s warmth on my face, brings a sense of ‘nirvana’ that envelops me. “Have you reached nirvana yet?” my family and friends often joke, acknowledging the tranquility that nature offers. In the embrace of the River’s currents, I discover a peace that eludes me amidst the hustle of daily life. With each rhythmic bounce of the boat, and the playful splashes of the sun-kissed water against my skin, it’s as if my worries dissolve into the River. Everything disappears like the fading hues of an orange sun melting into the water’s edge. As the waves crash around me, I feel the burden of anxiety and tension lift, replaced by an overwhelming sense of calm and clarity. This isn’t merely a fleeting moment of tranquility; it’s a consistent theme experienced by many who find solace in the great outdoors. Especially for all who love the Thousand Islands.

In our modern, fast-paced lives, filled with screens and schedules, it is important to remember to take a break. Simply stepping outside can be a transformative antidote to the stresses of our world. Beyond its awe-inspiring beauty, research illuminates the profound impact of nature on our mental well-being, offering a natural remedy that’s as accessible as it is effective. It’s the green expanses of a park, the comforting brown hues in the woods and the vast blues of rivers, lakes, and oceans, that provide sanctuaries for the body, mind, and spirit.

Mental Health America highlights the multitude of benefits that outdoor time brings. Improved focus, reduced stress levels, enhanced mood, and lowered risk of mental health conditions [1] are just a few of the gift’s nature offers to those who seek it. Researchers are now extending their gaze beyond traditional green spaces, diving into the wonders of “blue spaces”—areas with sweeping oceans and river sceneries. Studies suggest that the restorative effects of these blue landscapes may even surpass green spaces.[2]

Enjoying the peace of nature atop Mount Van Hoevenberg, part of the significant interconnected lands of the A2A region.[Photo by Bridgett McCann.]

A simple excursion to one’s backyard can yield remarkable results, creating a connection to nature that uplifts the spirit. Even within the confines of our indoor spaces, the presence of plants has been shown to boost focus, memory, and stress tolerance,[3] further underlining nature’s influence on our wellbeing.

From water to land, nature is here for you. While walking along a winding trail, like the Otter Creek Nature Trail[4], surrounded by vibrant greens and colors along the path, the problems of the day drift away. Each breath of fresh air fills your lungs, every hum of an insect sparks your senses, and a sense of reflection settles in. I become acutely aware of myself and my surroundings—my stride matching the rhythm of the earth beneath me, the subtle crunch of stones underfoot grounding me in the moment. Connection to nature is a powerful remedy for the mind, and a balm that soothes the soul.

Sunlight, nature’s own antidepressant, triggers the release of serotonin [5] and vitamin D—essential elements that naturally elevates mood, enhances focus, and alleviates stress. Conversely, insufficient sunlight can lead to a myriad of mental health challenges. As we emerge from the slumber of winter, spending more time outdoors becomes a vital tool for boosting these crucial levels of serotonin, catalyzing a beneficial biochemical response. But the benefits extend far beyond the biochemical; nature fosters a deep sense of connection—to oneself, the community, and to a larger purpose. Time spent in nature is linked to personal growth, heightened self-esteem, improved emotional regulation, and enhanced social skills.[6]

The St. Lawrence River offers the ultimate ‘blue space’ to take in its restorative benefits.[Photo by Bridgett McCann.]

Our modern lives, tethered to technology, have led us to a disconnection from the natural world—a disconnection that is recognized as a global concern. Researchers find that feeling connected to nature isn’t just a pleasant sentiment; it’s a predictor of happiness that stands strong even when considering our general connectedness to friends and community.[7]

The symphony of nature’s sounds also plays a vital role in its restorative properties. Research reveals that listening to the sounds of nature, from chirping crickets to crashing waves, enhances cognitive performance compared to the bustle of urban noise.[8]

Stepping back from the demands of everyday life can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. However, by prioritizing moments of self-care, cherished time with loved ones, and the simple joys of bonding with pets, can anchor us back to what truly matters. In this pursuit of tranquility and connection, TILT’s Signature Preserves and Trails offer opportunity. These natural green and blue spaces, freely accessibly to the public, provide a haven right in our own backyard.

For those seeking a more structured and guided experience in nature, the Land Trust offers an array of environmental education programs called treks, tailored to accommodate various interests and skill levels. From immersive birdwatching excursions like the Warbler Walk[9] and Bird is the Word Hike[10], where participants learn how to identify birds by sight and sound, to rejuvenating workshops like the Summer Solstice Walking Meditation [11] and Summer Yoga [12], these experiences cater to one’s longing for reconnection and adventure. Regardless of the type of experience you seek, TILT offers safe and enjoyable opportunities to forge new connections, and to gain a deeper appreciation, for the natural wonders that surround us.

Finding serenity from the restorative ‘blue spaces’ on the St. Lawrence River. [Photo by Bridgett McCann.]

The importance of nature has evolved into a global imperative. The United Nations (UN) sustainable development goals include providing universal access to safe, inclusive, and accessible green and public spaces by 2030[13]. On a national level, in 2021 the United States government established a goal to conserve at least 30 percent of US lands and waters by 2030[14]. These actions display the recognition of nature’s impact on our mental health and overall well-being is a crucial step toward a healthier, more balanced future.

The Land Trust is focused on making a local impact with global significance through conservation work and access to nature for all. At the iconic Zenda Farms Preserve [15], lush fields meet the embrace of the woodlands, offering a haven for wildlife and humans alike. Or take the S. Gerald Ingerson Preserve [16], where the harmony of flowing waters meets a trail steeped in adventure. By conserving these landscapes and inviting the public to experience their wonders year-round, the Land Trust provides the stage where a deep connection between humanity and the environment can be fostered. TILT's 10 Signature Preserves reflect the extraordinary diversity of habitat, wildlife, and beauty that make the Thousand Islands region so special. These preserves are free and open to the public with opportunities for outdoor recreation, education and inspiration.

Young community members take in the sunshine and connect to nature on the winding path of the MacFarlane Trail at Zenda Farms Preserve in Clayton, NY. [Photo by Terra Bach.]

In a world of stress and anxiety, the outdoors stands as a refuge—a sanctuary of peace and ‘nirvana’ that isn’t a distant dream, but rather a tangible experience found in nature’s embrace. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll through a park, an exploration of one of TILT’s Signature Preserves, a River adventure, or simply tending to indoor plants, nature offers a remedy. Get out on the land today and to connect with the healing essence of the outdoors!

The summer sun sinks behind the horizon on the St. Lawrence River, a celebrated ‘blue space’ that delivers the tranquility of nature. [Photo by Bridgett McCann.]

To learn more about TILT’s Preserves and plan your next adventure visit today!


[1] (The Outdoors and Nature | Mental Health America (
[2] Outdoor blue spaces, human health and well-being: A systematic review of quantitative studies - ScienceDirect
[3] IJERPH | Free Full-Text | Effects of Indoor Plants on Human Functions: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analyses (
[5] What Is Serotonin? | Mental Health America (
[6] The Outdoors and Nature | Mental Health America (
[7] Happiness and Feeling Connected: The Distinct Role of Nature Relatedness - John M. Zelenski, Elizabeth K. Nisbet, 2014 (
[8] Of cricket chirps and car horns: The effect of nature sounds on cognitive performance | Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (
[13] The-Sustainable-Development-Goals-Report-2023_0.pdf (
[17] Preserves & Trails | Thousand Islands Land Trust (

By Bridgett McCann, Communications Specialist

Bridgett McCann recently joined TILT as Communications Specialist. Graduating from St. Lawrence University with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Government and Environmental Studies, As a copy editor with experience communicating about conservation topics she looks forward to making a positive impact in the Thousand Islands region, a place close to her heart. Originally from Rochester NY, Bridgett spent many summers in the Thousand Islands. Outside of professional pursuits, she enjoys spending quality time outdoors and on the River with her family, friends, and two rambunctious black labs River and Rosie.

Posted in: Volume 19, Issue 6, June 2024, Nature, Essay

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