Working to improve the lives of veterans is hard work. It means dedicated, intentional work around supporting veterans wherever they are when they return home. Being in nature has been found to be therapeutic and supportive of healing both mentally and physically. One of the things veterans are called upon to do when they are active duty is to respond quickly, use their skills, and take risks. They face adverse circumstances every day. Sometimes minute by minute, they make choices that affect long term outcomes, including the lives of their friends. Learn more about how veterans can help translate this into their return home and why nature is so helpful in this transition.
Mental Health Challenges
Working around mental health issues is a challenge for people with conditions that keep them from feeling connected to loved ones. This goes for struggles with finding work, holding work, being able to do hobbies, creative outlets, or finding meaning in day-to-day life. Among some of the top issues veterans return home with, traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other diagnoses can make the transition harder. Nature is one place people can go they don’t feel they have to qualify what they can do or how well they can do it. They simply go out and be present in whatever nature has to offer.
Feeling Inspired by Nature
Not only can veterans find ways to go out in nature by simply walking or being present outside. They can also experience nature by doing programs, partnering with people, and going on expeditions. They may be able to take part in veterans programs that encourage them, alongside others, to get outside and use their skills. There are programs for those with disabilities and ways to engage in hiking, climbing, and rafting even when they have some physical abilities or mentally have challenges to overcome. The confidence they gain and the skills they grow in can help them find meaning and peace in the challenges they face.
Mental and physical health are things veterans need the most support on when they return home. To change how they see themselves and their place in the world, it helps to try something different. Health care is important, but so is self-care. Getting out into nature can be the perfect medicine for some of the challenges of finding peace in an otherwise turbulent time. Getting veterans outside can be a great way to engage their senses, help them move forward in recovery, and support their healing.
Tips to Opt Outside
The key goal for veterans is to find ways of engaging a new narrative at home. They go from one way of living to another when they return. They have to understand the world around them, which takes time. Taking time to get outside in nature helps them see things in a new way. Time outdoors is good for the mind, body, and soul. The key is to figure out how to take the next steps to do it. Here are some tips:
- Find others doing it. When people are doing what they love, others often follow. The challenge for veterans is to find the right group and activity
- Try and try again. It may be a trial and error of finding what works best. There will be a need to figure things out for a while until it seems something sticks. Don’t hesitate to keep trying something new until something works
- Nature walks are just as good as hiking. Depending on what people want, just being outside and walking trails or under the trees is healing. This breathing work of feeling air fills the lungs and fresh air can be helpful for veterans who have anxiety or depression
- Bring a friend. Don’t hesitate to call people and ask them to come for walks or go places. It helps bring some sense of healing to the journey to have others to walk with
The best way to get started is to find someone who wants to go, too. If it is hard to go alone, then reach out and ask some people for support. They may be just as eager to get outside and spend some time. Talk about what might be fun or helpful when looking at the options. The Earth is a big, expansive place with lots of places to roam. If it is hard, then look at traveling somewhere nearby but not too far. Seek out new places that seem to have fewer triggers or things that will make it harder to enjoy. Getting started is the hard part but once people do, they typically find something they enjoy and are able to keep going with it which builds their confidence and peace of mind.
Nature is a force to be reckoned with. There are lots of ways to understand how human nature needs the natural world as a way to heal. Many times people are removed from these spaces and are not able to find hope or healing when they are not able to get outside. Walking, hiking, biking, or other activities help people feel centered and grounded in hope for tomorrow. The hope that things will get better and they will recover. Taking time to hike in nature is one way to get started on opening the door to healing.
Forge encourages people to find their healing place wherever that may be. Nature is one way to do this. We also provide community support and resources that help Veterans find healing with others. You are not alone.