A new documentary film, Constant Thought, explores the therapeutic benefits of time spent outdoors from the perspective of an Iraq War Veteran.
Tell us about the film, where does the inspiration lie? Constant Thought is a short documentary that explores the therapeutic benefits of time spent outdoors from the perspective of Iraq War Veteran Brandon Kuehn as he hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. Anyone who spends time outside can agree the experience is therapeutic, whether you live in a busy city or have been stuck inside all day. When you step outside, breathe fresh air, and maybe go for a walk, we feel refreshed and renewed. Meeting Brandon was like coming across someone who felt this way to the extreme. For him, getting outside is a matter of managing his post traumatic stress disorder and we feel that this is our chance to make a film about why it’s important to protect outdoor spaces for people like Brandon who literally need them to survive.
“When you step outside, breathe fresh air, and maybe go for a walk, we feel refreshed and renewed. Meeting Brandon was like coming across someone who felt this way to the extreme.”
How did you come into contact with these veterans, and how were you impacted by their stories? We met Brandon Kuehn while in production for some work with the National Parks Conservation Association, revolving around military exercises in our National Parks. The main take-away from all of the stories that we heard was that military training has no place in our natural spaces. Veterans are some of the most outspoken people on these issues because nature is where they go to relax and deal with their trauma, and hearing fighter jets while they’re trying to spend time in nature totally ruins the experience.
How do you feel nature serves us as a form of therapy? What are the mental health benefits of being outdoors? It’s sometimes challenging to really put a pin in the healing qualities of nature, yet it’s something that we universally feel. Many of us seek nature in times of stress or sadness, but the question is really, why? Is it that spending time outside helps you think differently? Is it a distraction? These are the questions we hope to explore in Constant Thought.
There are many studies that suggest spending time outside is good for your brain and your body. A good example of that is a study that was conducted by Dacher Keltner at the University of California Berkeley. His three-year study showed that veterans experienced a 35 percent decrease of PTSD symptoms after a single two-day rafting trip. There’s a particular example in his work where he describes one vet who took up kayaking and reduced the amount the Department of Veterans Affairs was paying for his medication from $25,000 per year to $5,000. Therefore, the longterm benefits of outdoor therapy are important to consider as well.
“His three-year study showed that veterans experienced a 35 percent decrease of PTSD symptoms after a single two-day rafting trip.”
What do you hope the film accomplishes? Why is a return to nature so important? We hope Constant Thought will serve to share Brandon’s experience of healing through nature to the masses. For many people (including ourselves), the thought of hiking 2,600 miles in one shot isn’t appealing, but the point is that any amount of time spent in natural spaces can be therapeutic. It’s an inarguable fact that we humans are not separate from nature, we evolved with the trees and the birds, so it makes sense that spending time in our natural environment would improve our mental health. Everything we see, all the technology we use, everything we eat, originated in the natural world. Losing nature and the ability to enjoy natural spaces is not an option, it can’t be. We need it to survive.
“It’s an inarguable fact that we humans are not separate from nature, we evolved with the trees and the birds, so it makes sense that spending time in our natural environment would improve our mental health.”
Overall, how has this experience benefitted you as individuals? How do you return to nature on your own terms? Both of us were raised spending time enjoying nature, so on an individual level we spend our weekends hiking, climbing, and enjoying “the great outdoors”. Both of us are passionate about preserving natural spaces, and almost all of our professional work revolves around that passion. Being outside feels good, and we try to perpetuate that message in everything that we do.
Where can we find more information regarding your Kickstarter campaign, as well as upcoming screenings? You can visit our Kickstarter to find out more about Constant Thought. Projects like this are only possible with help from people like you, so please consider donating if you’re able to. Visit our website, www.sprucetonefilms.com, to get more information about our work.