Lost Creek Ranch, A PTSD Retreat in Colorado

PTSD and the Healing Powers of Nature

Research has revealed through many studies that our environments greatly impact our stress levels. Our environment can influence, positively and negatively, our ability to cope with our various emotions, which directly influences the way we hold ourselves on a daily basis. These changes alter mood, behavior, appearance, and even physical health. Whatever one experiences at any given time changes and remolds the essence of his very being.

A prime arena to observe these types of changes is in our soldiers. By enlisting to serve one’s country, a soldier dives into a drastic change of environment, never before experienced. In this scenario, the man or woman volunteers to experience a complete uprooting of his or her comforts to face a completely unfamiliar environment – one that is volatile, always shifting due to the complexities of war. If all environments impact people at their core, then this atmosphere drastically alters a soldier, reshaping who this man or woman will become. A soldier forces himself to adjust to coping with the horrors of war, already a massive shift in his or her being, and then, after assimilating into this new, dangerous environment, gets the news that he or she gets to come home. With this new war-shaped mindset, the soldier returns, yet again, to a sudden shift in environment where he or she arrives to a plethora of difficulties in the effort to revert to life at home.

In the article “How does Nature Impact our Wellbeing?” an author for the University of Minnesota writes, “The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel anxious, or sad, or helpless. This in turn elevates your blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension and suppresses your immune system. A pleasing environment reverses that.”

We, at Lost Creek Ranch, a PTSD retreat in Colorado, believe that this is the primary reason so many people head for the hills when afforded the opportunity. They yearn for the positive change in environment.

It is commonly known that being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and enhances positive feelings. Exposure to nature improves one’s emotional state, as well as his physical wellbeing by calming blood pressure, heart rate, tension, and the production of stress hormones. According to public health researchers, Stamatakis and Mitchell, nature may even reduce mortality rates.

A single plant in an office or hospital room can have a subtle, but significant impact on stress and anxiety of the individuals occupying the rooms.

In a study conducted by renowned physician Robert Ulrich, he monitored patients who were having gallbladder surgery, where half of the patients faced a plain wall and the other half had a view of trees. Not surprisingly, the patients who were able to view the trees were more successful with their pain management, ultimately spending less time in the hospital and experiencing fewer negative effects through the post-surgery healing process.

I was recently at the dentist’s, not one of my favorite places to be, though my condition at the time demanded it. During my procedure, I commented to my dentist that the images of nature strategically placed on the ceiling above my seat were beautiful. Looking back, at the event, I know that that beauty was calming. I asked my dentist why he chose to place them there, and he responded that this is a technique gaining circulation in dental offices and hospitals as patients seem to tolerate the discomfort much better when surrounded by even something as simple as views of nature. Just imagine the positive effects it could have on people fighting PTSD immersed in a retreat in the Colorado mountains.

With this revelation, I researched the matter more deeply, and I, indeed, found that, yes, man hospitals and dental rooms were doing the same thing; scenes of nature were appearing in medical rooms everywhere. Put simply, nature RESTORES a state of “general wellbeing.”

While I realized this from my own experience, current research supports my theory. One study in “Mind,” states that 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced. Other studies conducted by Ulrich, Kim, and Cervinka concurred that scenes of nature can be associated with “positive mood changes, psychological wellbeing, meaningfulness, and vitality.”

Spending time in nature helps people to concentrate and focus, and increases their ability to pay attention to what matters. This occurs because, as human beings, they find nature inherently interesting and comforting. It centers people internally as they feel welcomed by their natural surroundings. Nature provides a respite from our everyday lives and our overactive or troubled minds. It enables us to accomplish new things, take on tasks for the first time, or even discover healing. It helps us reconnect to that which is important, and to each other. Most importantly, and especially with our soldiers facing PTSD in a place that has become distant and confusing, it is a reconnection to the outside world, to the environment that has such a powerful impact on establishing who we are as people.

Lost Creek Ranch, a PTSD retreat in Colorado, is nearly magical for exactly this reason. Visitors cross its crystal clear creeks and hike the trails with majestic protective tree lines. The towering spruce and pines provide a perfect habitat for a vast viewing of birds, elk, deer, and many other smaller denizens of the forest.

When fighting the effects of PTSD our retreat in Colorado offers peace. When you are in the mountains at Lost Creek Ranch, the sounds you hear are different and far removed from the chaotic and overwhelming noises of the city. The air you breathe is clean and crisp, and as it fills your lungs, you experience the rejuvenating freshness of nature, and the healing process begins.

As a veteran myself, I have spent large amounts of time at Lost Creek Ranch facing the struggles of PTSD in this retreat in Colorado. I have found solace by hiking, walking the river, or even just sitting on the rocks and taking in the indescribable landscape below. I have contemplated the loss of family, my brothers and sisters in uniform. I have acknowledged that I will never fully understand their sacrifice, but I have realized that I must go forward.

Lost Creek Ranch offers those experiencing PTSD a retreat in Colorado nature. It has given me a place to heal, a place to renew my spirit, a place to develop the ability to reconnect to my family and friends. If you are a veteran, or even just a friend in need of healing, I invite you to join us, whether visiting or supporting Lost Creek Ranch, to become a partner in healing.