Stay Active After Active Duty

January 23, 2020 | 3-minute read

What's New > Stay Active After Active Duty

January marks the time of year when magazines and morning shows tout New Year’s resolutions: “A New You in the New Year!” “Ten Steps to a Fitter Future!” “Real Resolutions To Crush Carbs!”

But these frequent refrains may not appeal to everyone. Luckily, calisthenics and conditioning aren’t the only activities for Veterans to consider. A healthful activity can involve whatever brings you joy, peace, or a sense of satisfaction after receiving treatment. For some, that might mean reading novels, while others reap the same benefits from cooking, car repair, or marathon-running.

“My avenue of tranquility/vacation is art,” explains Phyllis, a Navy Veteran who loves to paint. “I have found that art touches everyone. It speaks in volume beyond words.”

For Phyllis, whose PTSD was diagnosed by a VA therapist, painting “touched the very core of self-healing.”

Another kind of art has helped Jeff, an Army National Guardsman. His VA therapist suggested taking up activities that stimulate both sides of his brain, such as gymnastics and dance.

“I've been recently taking hip-hop lessons to keep active and learning, and it has helped a lot,” Jeff says. “If you can find programs that get you out there, like recreational therapies … those help so much.”

For some Veterans, nature may provide the perfect complement to their therapeutic treatments. Ruth, who served in the Navy, found that being in nature gave her the freedom to find herself — and then just to be herself.

“I met an incredible psychiatrist, and he said, ‘We can help you find a good quality of life.’ And they did,” Ruth says. They discovered that for her, in addition to more traditional treatment, “the best therapy of all was getting outside, walking, hiking, fishing. They’re all happy, happy feelings for me.”

Nature was also a key part of recovery for Rick, who left the Navy after six years of service and had trouble adjusting to his less structured new life. The transition was one of the hardest he had ever made, he says, and he knew he needed help.

Ultimately, Rick discovered that one-on-one therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, equine therapy, and other treatments were enhanced when he also engaged in his hobby of fly fishing.

“Being out amongst the trees and in the flowing water — it’s transformative,” he says.

Tony, an Army Veteran, agrees: “I think nature is the natural antidepressant. There’s some spiritual component to it that brings you closer to happiness.”

While it’s beneficial to engage in an activity that you love, it shouldn’t replace exercise, a healthy diet, or traditional mental health treatment. As these Veterans attest, activities that bring you happiness can complement other treatments.

This new year, resolve to find your recreational passion and make it a priority in your life.


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