There’s no doubt about it, the more time you spend outside, the better you feel. Americans as a whole are increasingly spending more time indoors due to changes in technology and time use habits, with the average US citizen spending 2 hours and 49 minutes per day watching TV, but just 17 minutes engaging in sports, recreation, and exercise, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are definite consequences of these habits for the mental stability of our general populous. Anxiety Disorders are among the leading mental illnesses in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults in the United States over the age of 18. Among these anxiety disorders are Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
There is no shortage of evidence on the mental health benefits of getting outdoors. In fact, it even has a name now: EcoTherapy or “Green Therapy.” Simply taking a walk outdoors has been shown to reduce depression scores in 71% of participants in a recent mental health study.
As we all know, members of our Armed Forces suffer severely from some of these anxiety disorders, including, but not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder. A study by the University of Michigan measured the impact that being outdoors had on US Veterans and their long-term psychological well-being. Participants spent four to seven days on an outdoor retreat, engaging in activities such as fly fishing, backpacking, kayaking, whitewater rafting, and the like. Nearly 74% of the participants showed improvement in their mental health scores of 10% or more. The kicker? It’s not just the act of being outdoors that improves mental health, it’s the benefit of experiencing the outdoors with a group.
With this in mind, non-profit organizations have been created all around the country with the sole purpose of getting our Veterans outdoors, active, and living a more positive life. Below are just a few that caught my attention:
- Operation Amped: Operation Amped’s mission is to share the “stoke” of the surfing community and the healing potential of surfing with seriously ill, injured, or disabled U.S. military veterans and their families.
- Veterans Outdoors: Veteran Outdoors’ mission is to honor our country’s wounded veterans’ patriotism and their sacrifice by providing quality hunting, fishing and outdoor related activities. VO’s goal is to raise public awareness about the therapeutic effects that being in the outdoors actually has on the mental and physical disabilities of our country’s wounded men and women.
- Outward Bound for Veterans: Outward Bound for Veterans helps thousands of returning service members and recent veterans readjust to life at home through powerful wilderness courses that draw on the healing benefit of teamwork and challenge through use of the natural world.
- NoBarriers Warriors: NoBarriers empowers veterans and transitioning service members with disabilities as well as survivors of the fallen to break through barriers, find their inner purpose and contribute their very best to the world. Their Soldiers to Summits program offers journey-based expeditions range from one day to three weeks treks through Nepal, Ecuador, Peru, the South Pole and the US.
This Wednesday, November 11th is Veterans Day, so we encourage you to spend some time outdoors with a Veteran you know, or anyone else for that matter! We can all use a little more mental health time in our lives, and the benefits of being outdoors cannot be understated. To further show support for those who have served our country, we encourage everyone to participate in Lightning 100’s Salute to Vets Radiothon this Wednesday, supporting the work of ASMBA STAR Foundation, which issues grants to support the work of military-related charities around the United States.
– Keeley (Team Green’s Director)