Arts and Nature Experiences Can Help Veterans

a man in a tie dye bandana shakes hands with a man in a suit while standing in front of his stained glass art exhibit

Military veterans face many challenges when returning to civilian life: reconnecting with family and re-establishing a role in the family; joining or creating a community; returning to a job or preparing to enter the workforce; and adjusting to a different pace of life and work. Some veterans return home with severe injuries, some visible, and some invisible. In healthcare and community settings, veterans have discovered vital outlets for expression and pathways to purpose and joy through activities such as writing, gardening, performing music, hiking, painting, and fishing.

The Benefits of Arts and Nature Experiences

Researchers and professionals who work with veterans have reported myriad benefits when spending time in nature and the creative arts:

  • Decreased feelings of anxiety
  • Reduced levels of stress hormones
  • Greater focus, self-awareness, and sense of confidence
  • Improvement in cognitive skills and the ability to process trauma
  • Higher capacity for confronting frustrations, transitions, and grief

Veterans, too, have identified additional benefits:

  • Facilitate bonding with others
  • Provide a sense of call, being more in control
  • Offer respite from problems and stress
  • Ease transition from military to civilian life
  • Help them find meaning in their recovery
  • Make it easier to talk about difficult subjects
  • Give them a reason to live

Scientific Evidence

A growing body of research has demonstrated the therapeutic value of the arts and spending time in nature. Below are selected studies:

Creative Arts

Nature

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