In recent years, holistic wellness methods have seen growing popularity in the veteran service arena. Holistic wellness approaches physical, mental, and spiritual well-being from a natural healing perspective, as opposed to prescription medication. This can include healing touch, tai chi, yoga, meditation, diet, and nature therapy.
IJF member organizations Chicago Botanic Gardens and Thresholds have partnered to implement nature healing programs for veterans. These horticultural therapy programs leverage the soothing power of gardening to treat PTSD and other mental health issues. The effects have proven transformative for individual participants, and scientists have found that exposure to the outdoors increases serotonin and generates powerful spiritual development through giving back to Mother Nature.
Additionally, Chicago is a hotspot for urban farming, an approach that attempts to facilitate these same benefits right in our city. Recent summers have seen a spike in the number of urban farms throughout the city, with many popping up in underserved communities whose residents don’t have easy access to fresh produce. Some, such as Windy City Harvest or Wood Street Urban Farm in Englewood, offer pathways to employment for those struggling to obtain a steady income, as many veterans who come through IJF may be. Many urban farms also provide or partner with other organizations to teach participants tools for using produce in a cost-efficient and nutritious way.
These holistic approaches may seem outside the box, but veteran services have already started to realize their power. While VA medical centers are often thought to be grounded in more traditional healing approaches, the Jesse Brown VA is one example of a VA facility that has embraced holistic wellness through their Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatment clinic. Among other things, participants can grow vegetables in an on-site garden and turn them into wholesome, nutritious meals.
Do you think holistic wellness is a good strategy for veterans? What sorts of holistic wellness programs would you like to see offered through the VA? Let us know in the comments below!
By: Caitlin Hodes