Back to Top Skip to main content

Into the woods: Does nature nurture healing?

The Green Road nature site is tucked away on bustling Naval Support Activity Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo courtesy of Uniformed Services University) The Green Road nature site is tucked away on bustling Naval Support Activity Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo courtesy of Uniformed Services University)

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Suicide Prevention

Anne Frank wrote in her diary that nature provides “solace in all troubles.” Poet Lord Byron waxed about “a pleasure in the pathless woods.” President Calvin Coolidge said, “There is healing in the trees for tired minds and overburdened spirits. ... nature is your great restorer.”

Does nature really have healing powers? The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences’ Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) is leading a team of researchers tackling this question. Their laboratory is the Green Road, a nature site tucked away on bustling Naval Support Activity Bethesda, Maryland. The base is home to the health sciences university as well as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“I’ve always relieved my stress by going outside to be in nature,” said Patricia Deuster, the CHAMP director who’s also a nationally ranked marathoner, skydiver, and former tennis pro. Deuster is lead investigator of the Green Road research team, which also includes the National Institutes of Health, the University of Arizona, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

The project is the brainchild of Dr. Frederick Foote, a retired Navy neurologist and former adjunct professor at the health sciences university. He put together a team to apply for funding from a nonprofit organization to study the healing effects of nature in populations that may be vulnerable to behavioral health issues. Studies have suggested traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder are risk factors for suicide in Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

“The goals of the Green Road project are to provide empirical evidence for the healing power of nature in wounded warriors and their caregivers,” Foote said. “We also hope to inspire health care and policy leaders to incorporate green healing spaces throughout the Military Health System and civilian health care systems.”

More than 100 projects nationwide applied for the grants in 2013. The Green Road was one of six that received funding. Then, work to create the space began. An existing exercise path at Walter Reed Bethesda was expanded and widened, and 2 acres in the woods were cleared and redesigned to retain natural woodlands while including walking paths, landscaping, commemorative and communal spaces, and bridges that traverse a creek.

The total cost of the project was about $2 million, Foote said, adding that no public funds were used.

“It’s an absolutely extraordinary environment,” Deuster said, “and just a beautiful, beautiful place.”

The Green Road was dedicated as a research site in September 2016, but Deuster and her team are awaiting final construction approvals before research begins. They’re recruiting 50 to 60 participants who will complete questionnaires and baseline physiological evaluations before receiving heart rate monitors and navigation systems.

The study participants will take two walks: one out the back door of Building 53 directly onto a path leading to the Green Road site, and one out the front door and around the traffic-heavy, noisy campus. Their physiological responses to both environments will be evaluated to produce quantitative data, or statistics. They’ll also be interviewed about emotions and feelings they experienced during the two walks, to generate qualitative data.

Deuster said the research will take about a year to complete.

“I spend time in nature every day,” she said. “I know how healing it is for me, how it makes me relax and forget about all the stressful stuff. It will be interesting to see whether the quantitative data support the qualitative, that being in nature can have a tremendous impact on health and well-being.”

You also may be interested in...

Assess your mental wellness during Mental Health Awareness Month

Article
5/25/2018
Similar to physical health, mental health requires regular care. Mental health is as critical as physical health to mission readiness. Therefore, it’s just as important to invest in your mental health as it is your physical health. (U.S. Air Force photo)

TRICARE provides mental health services for you and your family at all times

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness | Men's Health | TRICARE Health Program

TRICARE Mental Health

Video
5/24/2018
TRICARE Mental Health

Watch this video to learn more about the mental health care benefits TRICARE provides

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care

Breaking down the image: Mental health

Article
5/22/2018
Kevin Hines, a suicide survivor and activist for suicide prevention, speaks to Airmen assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing about his story at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. Hines is one of 36 people to survive a suicide attempt by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

May has been National Mental Health Month since 1949

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Health Readiness | Mental Wellness

Years in the making: How the risk for Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced

Article
5/18/2018
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5.5 million Americans, up to 1.7 percent of the population, may have Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms such as memory problems, impaired reasoning or judgment, vision or spatial issues, and difficulty finding words can indicate early stages of the disease. (U.S. Army graphic)

About 3 million new cases of Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, are diagnosed every year. Experts say lifestyle modifications can help prevent this disease.

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

Making behavioral health care easy

Article
5/11/2018
Army Staff Sgt. Michael McMillan (right), 35th Infantry Division behavioral health noncommissioned officer in charge, confers with Army Capt. Trever Patton, 35th ID psychologist, in Kuwait. Embedded behavioral health teams are a key part of providing easy access to care for service members. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Tina Villalobos)

Embedded behavioral health teams let service members easily access behavioral health care right in their unit areas

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

Military providers seek tailored approach to treating PTSD

Article
3/14/2018
The VA/DoD clinical practice guideline for managing post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder recommends against prescribing benzodiazepines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Pick)

New tool reviews, monitors provider prescribing habits

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Military Hospitals and Clinics | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Rocky and Elmo want providers to "Watch. Ask. Share."

Article
2/12/2018
Defense Health Agency Director Vice Admiral Raquel “Rocky” Bono joined Sesame Street’s Elmo to record a welcome video for the new provider section of the Sesame Street for Military Families website. (Photo by MHS Communications)

How DHA teamed with Sesame Street to help care for military families

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Public Health | Preventive Health | Children's Health | Deployment Health | Connected Health

Your military family: The key to beating holiday blues

Article
12/20/2017
Airman Adrianna Barelas, 4th Space Operations Squadron system administrator, displays her Grinch side for the holiday season at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Dec. 1, 2017. Many things can cause stress during the holidays, including travel, financial strain from gift buying, and the expectations of friends and family. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Tracy)

Lift your mood with healthy basics

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care

2017 Year in Review: A look at inspiring individuals who help shape the MHS

Article
12/20/2017
Staff Sgt. Matthew Crabtree, a medic with the 285th Medical Company (Area Support) and a registered nurse, performs a medical assessment on an infant less than one month old Oct. 27, 2017, in Jayuya, Puerto Rico. Military medical personnel were critical to disaster response related to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. (Ohio National Guard photo by Sgt. Joanna Bradshaw)

MHS highlights the contributions of veterans, advocates, providers

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief | Research and Innovation

Print PSA: Expanded Coverage for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

Publication
11/7/2017

Public service announcement you can print locally to help spread the word about the expanded coverage for mental health and substance use disorders.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Mental Health Care

Soldier uses school project to combat suicide

Article
9/29/2017
Ohio Army National Guard Capt. Michael Barnes talks to a Soldier about the Ohio Vet 2 Vet Network, a website and mobile app with information and resources for military veterans and their families to combat the risk factors of suicide among veterans. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)

Army Capt. Michael Barnes is channeling his passion for helping veterans to get a master’s degree in nursing

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

One small act can save a life

Article
9/26/2017
Suicide Prevention Month is a prime opportunity for the U.S. Department of Defense and the Military Health System to raise public awareness of suicide risk among Service members, Veterans and beneficiaries

There are no specific demographics associated with suicides, but there may be warning signs

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

Interagency Task Force on Military and Veterans Mental Health 2017 Annual Report

Report
9/19/2017

The Interagency Task Force on Military and Veterans Mental Health (ITF) coordinates federal activities to improve access to mental health and substance use services and support for Veterans, Service members, and their families. This report summarizes progress on the ITF recommendations being addressed by the Departments since the 2016 Annual Report (through Fall 2017); it is intended as a progress update on the current recommendations rather than a comprehensive review of all inter- and intra-agency accomplishments in the mental health arena.

Recommended Content:

DoD/VA Sharing Initiatives | Mental Health Care

Healthcare Burdens Attributable to Various Mental Disorders, U.S. Armed Forces 2016

Infographic
5/25/2017
Did you know…? In 2016, mood disorders and substance abuse accounted for 25.9% of all hospital days. Together, four mental disorders – mood, substance abuse disorders, adjustment, and anxiety – and two maternal conditions – pregnancy complications and delivery – accounted for 53.6% of all hospital bed days. And 12.4% of all hospital bed days were attributable to injuries and poisonings. Here are the mental disorders that affected U.S. Armed Forces in 2016: Pie Chart titled Bed days for mental disorders in 2016: •	Mood Disorder (46,920 bed days) – the orange pie slice. •	Substance Abuse Disorders (44,746 bed days) – the blue pie slice. •	Adjustment Disorder (30,017 bed days) – the purple pie slice. •	Anxiety Disorder (20,458 bed days) – the gray pie slice. •	Psychotic Disorder (6,532 bed days) – the light blue pie slice. •	All other mental disorders (3,233 bed days) – the violet pie slice. •	Personality disorder (2,393 bed days) – the forest green pie slice. •	Somatoform (552 bed days) – the lime green pie slice. •	Tobacco dependence (2 bed days) – the white pie slice. Bar graph shows percentage and cumulative percentage distribution, burden “conditions” that accounted for the most hospital bed days, active component, U.S. Armed Forces 2016.  % of total bed days (bars) for mood disorder, substance abuse disorders, adjustment disorder, pregnancy complications; delivery; anxiety disorder; head/neck injuries, all other digestive diseases, other complications NOS; other back problems, all other signs and symptoms; leg injuries, all other maternal conditions; all other neurologic conditions; all other musculoskeletal diseases; all other skin diseases;  back and abdomen; appendicitis; all other infectious and parasitic diseases; all other cardiovascular diseases; all other mental disorders; all other respiratory diseases; arm/shoulder injuries; poisoning, drugs; foot/ankle injuries; other gastroenteritis and colitis; personality disorder; lower respiratory infections; all other genitourinary diseases; all other malignant neoplasms; cerebrovascular disease.  See more details on this bar graph in the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report (MSMR) April 2017 Vol. 24 No. 4 report, page 4. This annual summary for 2016 was based on the use of ICD-10 codes exclusively. Read more on this analysis at Health.mil/MSMR. #LetsTalkAboutIt Background of graphic is a soldier sitting on the floor in a dark room.

This infographic documents the mental disorders that affected U.S. Armed Forces in 2016.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Mental Health Care

Signs of Mental Health Distress

Infographic
3/3/2017
Signs of Mental Health Distress

This graphic shows signs of mental health distress.

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 31 - 45 Page 3 of 8

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.