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Eco-Therapy Golf Provides Healing & Wellness for PTSD and TBI

Please note that the information provided is to give our guests and readers a background on the benefits of golf for existing health disorders. It is not a replacement for a medical diagnosis or professional medical advice.  If you are need of medical assistance, please consult with your doctor or a licensed physician.

What is Ecotherapy?

Ecotherapy is spending time outdoors surrounded by nature while engaging in a physical activity in order to heal the body & mind.  It is an alternative to modern medicine that has aided our ancestors for millennia.

According to “Ecotherapy – An Affordable Prescription for Better Health” by Robin Kuleck, RN & MSED,(1) “It is a version of Shinrin-Yoku, a Japanese practice also described as forest bathing.”  Robin Kuleck is an extension educator with food, family, and health expertise.

Robin explains that Dr. Howard Clinebell, a pastoral psychology teacher, introduced the term Ecotherapy in 1996 in a book titled “Ecotherapy: Healing Ourselves, Healing the Earth” as an intimate connection to nature to help deal with stress.

Whether doctors prescribe a nature-walk or meditation while listening to the sounds of nature, treatments have been used to help mental challenges such as anxiety, depression, and other mental ailments, as well as physical challenges and disabilities as rehabilitation.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is an acronym for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  According to Mayo Clinic, the mental health condition is triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.  Symptoms interfere with normal day-to-day abilities and cause significant problems that may affect work and social relationships. (2)

Any or all of the following symptoms may be experienced: avoidance of places or people familiar to the traumatic event, negative thoughts and mood, feelings of hopelessness, intrusive memories and memory problems, difficulty maintaining close relationships, feeling detached, lack of interest in activities, feeling emotionally numb,  flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, being easily startled or frightened, always feeling on guard for danger, self-destructive behavior, irritability, angry outbursts, and/or overwhelming feelings of guilt or shame.

Adjusting and coping from trauma-related symptoms may be difficult, but self-care usually improves symptoms over time. When symptoms progress rather than improve, last for months or years, and interfere with daily abilities, you may have PTSD.

According to Mayo Clinic, PTSD increases the risk of other mental health problems including depression and anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, and/or suicidal thoughts and actions. If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, please seek help right away through one or more of the following resources:

  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
  • Contact a minister, a spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
  • Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
  • Make an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional:

Fore Honor Golf & Event Center houses a St. Louis Veteran Center Out-Station, a remote Veteran Center location on-site, offering professional counseling for FREE for Veterans and their Families.

For further information, or to set up an appointment, please contact Chris Hancock, M.S. at 314-531-5355.

When to get Emergency Help

If you feel you might hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.  If you know someone who is in danger of attempting suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person to keep him or her safe. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.   (2)

What is TBI?

TBI is an acronym for Traumatic Brain Injury, an illness resulting “from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body,” or when “an object that penetrates brain tissue, such as a bullet or shattered piece of skull,” according to Mayo Clinic. (3)

Traumatic brain injury may cause physical and psychological complications including permanent changes in a person's state of consciousness, awareness, or responsiveness.

Physical complications may include: seizures, fluid buildup in the brain (hydrocephalus), infections of the brain that can spread to the nervous system, blood vessel damage, headaches, vertigo, insomnia, sensory problems, persistent ringing in the ears, difficulty recognizing objects, impaired hand-eye coordination, blind spots or double vision, bitter taste, foul sense of smell or difficulty smelling, skin tingling, pain or itching, and/or trouble with balance or dizziness.

Cranial nerve damage from traumatic brain injury may further result in: paralysis of facial muscles or losing sensation in the face, loss of or altered sense of smell, loss of or altered sense of taste, loss of vision or double vision, swallowing problems, dizziness, ringing in the ear, hearing loss, and/or intellectual problems.

Many people who have had a significant brain injury will experience changes in their thinking (cognitive) skills. It may be difficult to focus and process thoughts.

Cognitive disabilities brought on by traumatic brain injury may affect memory, learning, ability to reason, judgment, attention or concentration, executive functioning, problem-solving, multitasking, organization, planning, decision-making, beginning or completing tasks, communication, and/or language and communicating.

These problems can cause frustration, conflict and misunderstanding for people with a traumatic brain injury, as well as family members, friends and care providers.

Communication problems may include: difficulty understanding speech or writing, difficulty speaking or writing, inability to organize thoughts and ideas, trouble following and participating in conversations, social problems, trouble with turn-taking or topic selection in conversations, problems with changes in pitch or emphasis to express emotions, attitudes or subtle differences in meaning, difficulty understanding nonverbal signals, trouble reading cues from listeners, trouble starting or stopping conversations, and/or inability to use the muscles needed to form words (dysarthria).

Changes in behavior and emotion may include: difficulty with self-control, lack of awareness of abilities, risky behavior, difficulty in social situations, verbal or physical outbursts, depression, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, lack of empathy, and/or anger.

Degenerative Brain Diseases

Research suggests that repeated or severe traumatic brain injuries might increase the risk of degenerative brain diseases, which may cause gradual loss of brain functions, including:(3)

  • Alzheimer's disease, causing progressive loss of memory and other thinking skills.
  • Parkinson's disease, causes progressive movement problems, tremors, and  rigidity.
  • Dementia pugilistica, causes symptoms of dementia and movement problem

How does Golf help those with PTSD or TBI?

According to Whole Systems Healing, created by the Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows, (4) Eco-Healing contributes to physical wellness and reduces blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension. Taking a walk in nature, tending a garden, enjoying outdoor sports, volunteering on a farm, or exploring the wilderness are all examples of activities with the capacity to restore and to heal your body, mind, and spirit.

“Because human beings evolved in nature, they are intimately connected to nature. Physically, we are, like all life forms, chemically related to the Earth, and the Earth is hard-wired into our chemistry.” (The Biophilia Hypothesis, by E.O. Wilson) (4)

In the article by Whole Systems Healing, Charlson Meadows explains intimately how Nature provides a sense of belonging by heightening our senses of sound, taste, scent, touch, and sight. Aside from the term ecotherapy, other terms used today reflect human-nature relationships and their potential for reciprocal healing including: eco-psychology, eco-therapy, nature-based therapeutics, eco-health, therapeutic horticulture, care farming, green care, and sustainability care.  All of the terms likewise define the healing benefits of nature. “Nature reminds us that we belong to life, and we are part of something much bigger than ourselves” and gives us a “glimpse of the divine.” 

Charles Benayon, Founder & CEO of Aspiria, (5) wrote about the health benefits associated with Ecotherapy in his article titled “Get Outside! Ecotherapy Can Benefit Your Mental Health.”  He points out that urbanization has disconnected people from nature, “spending little to no time outdoors in green spaces.”

Research suggests that urban lifestyles lead to anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. Charles explains that many countries are actively using “natural therapy or green therapy” to combat the negative effects of urbanization. “These programs encourage interacting with nature and participating in outdoor activities, to help heal and nurture the mind and body.”  South Korea promotes “healing forests” with at least three being used therapeutically. (5)

According to the Better Health Channel, golf can “help develop a sense of community connectedness.”  Golf incorporates a healthy walk in pleasant surroundings that may be played individually or with other people. It is versatile in that it can be a casual pastime or a competition.  There are opportunities for outdoors enjoyment, social connections with others, and rehabilitation for the body and mind with mental and physical challenges.

The article explains that golf is not only good for your health, but also for your heart. “Walking an average course for a round of golf can be between five to seven kilometers. If you walk 18 holes three to five times a week, you’ll get an optimal amount of endurance exercise for your heart. If you pull your clubs or carry them, you’ll burn even more calories each round and benefit even more.”

As a leisurely sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, the injury risk is very low for golf compared to other sports. Contrarily, golf as a safe low-risk outdoor activity provides a lengthy list of health and wellness opportunities including: (6)

  • Improved heart health
  • Elevated mood
  • Relaxation
  • Reduced stress
  • Stimulated mental challenge
  • Mental energy restoration
  • Increased alertness
  • Better concentration
  • Improved agility
  • Improved short-term memory
  • Better sleep after an exerting activity
  • Benefits of fresh air
  • Vitamin D from the sun
  • Fitness and exercise
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Increased endurance
  • Weight loss
  • Social opportunities
  •  Community connectedness
  • Outdoors sensory perceptiveness

References

(1) “Ecotherapy – An Affordable Prescription for Better Health” by Robin Kuleck, RN & MSED, (https://extension.psu.edu/ecotherapy-an-affordable-prescription-for-better-health)

(2) Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967)

(3) Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/traumatic-brain-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20378557)

(4) Whole Systems Healing is created by the Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows. © 2019 Regents of the University of Minnesota. (https://www.csh.umn.edu/education/whole-systems-healing/eco-healing)

(5) Charles Benayon, Founder & CEO of Aspiria, “Get Outside! Ecotherapy Can Benefit Your Mental Health.” (https://charlesbenayon.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/get-outside-ecotherapy-can-benefit-your-mental-health/)

(6) Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia © Copyright State of Victoria 2018 (https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/golf-health-benefits)

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Our Mission & Vision

Honoring those who serve, protect, defend and sacrifice.

Our Mission is to provide Free Golf Memberships giving Free Green’s Fee’s for Military, Veterans, & First Emergency Responders. All who Serve Protect, Defend & Sacrifice & are willing to put their lives on the line every day.

Our Vision is to create wellness programs and activities for those service, duty or war wounded & suffering from the effects from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) & Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Also to create & dedicate displays of Honor for each branch of service through-out the golf course and facility as to resemble an Honor themed golf course.