Veterans Are Using the Outdoors to Address PTSD

Time spent outdoors can be good for one's mental health

Outdoor woodland scene
Can landscapes like this help address PTSD?
Harry Gillen/Unsplash

While it isn’t entirely clear how vast its reach is, a number of studies have shown that time spent outdoors can be therapeutic. Some people have ventured into the outdoors alone, while others have made their way there with therapists or as part of larger groups. One group in particular has found this method of psychological treatment very useful: military veterans.

That’s one of the biggest takeaways from a new article by Daliah Singer in Smithsonian Magazine. In it, Singer spoke with a variety of veterans who have found time spent in nature — whether on their own or as part of something more formal — to be useful in addressing PTSD and helping them re-adjust to life outside of combat.

Among the veterans interviewed for the article was Mitch Vasquez, who spoke about the positive benefits of spending a month alone in nature. “There are no huge triggers in the outdoors,” he told Singer. “It’s just so calming. It’s quiet.” He went on to found Heroes’ Harvests, a nonprofit organization that — according to its website — provides “a dynamic therapeutic environment through exclusive hunting, fishing and outdoor experiences.”

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No one therapeutic experience will work for everyone, and the Smithsonian article brings up a potentially big risk for some veterans: what if the terrain of an outdoor retreat evokes a traumatic combat experience. But it sounds like a growing way for people to bolster their mental health — a goal worth pursuing.

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