Vet Arts Connect

How Arts and Nature Experiences Can Help Veterans

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.

Thousands of veterans have found that creative arts and nature activities provide relief from symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and traumatic brain injury. In healthcare and community settings, veterans have discovered vital outlets for expression and pathways to purpose and joy through activities such as writinggardeningperforming musichikingpainting, and fishing


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


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

Creative Arts

Coming home to the arts: theatre with military veterans and families

Participatory choral music as a means of engagement in a veteran’s mental health and addiction treatment setting

Randomized controlled trial of online expressive writing for veteran reintegration difficulty


Sharing a New Foxhole with Friends: The Impact of Outdoor Recreation on Injured Military

Enhancing the well-being of veterans using extended group-based nature recreation experiences

Nature adventure rehabilitation for combat-related posttraumatic chronic stress disorder: A randomized control trial