For the past several years, a collaboration between the Sierra Club and researchers at the University of California at Berkeley has explored the potential for awe to decrease symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
This research is preliminary, but shows that combat veterans suffering from PTSD showed a 30% reduction in symptoms after a whitewater rafting excursion. One week after the trip, relationships with family and friends continued to show improvements. Moreover, stress hormones, immune system functioning, and other brain responses showed significant positive changes from before to after the trip.
This research doesn’t mean that nature, by itself, is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders such as PTSD. Other treatments – especially behavioral exposure – have been shown to be effective non-medicinal treatments for such conditions. However, it does suggest, at least, a useful supplement to conventional treatments for problems related to stress and anxiety.
More information can be found at this press release from Berekely.