Gardening And Addiction – How Gardening Helps In Recovery

Gardening And Addiction – How Gardening Helps In Recovery

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By: Mary Ellen Ellis

Gardeners already know how great this activity is for mentalhealth. It’s relaxing, a good way to cope with stress, allows you toconnect with nature, and provides a quiet time to reflect or not have to thinkat all. There is now evidence that gardening and being outdoors can aid inrecovery from addiction and improve mental health as well. There are evenorganized programs for horticulturaland garden therapy.

How Gardening Helps in Recovery from Addiction

Helping addiction with gardening should only be done afteror while receiving professional support. This is a serious disease that is besttreated by mental health and addiction professionals. Used as a supportivetherapy or activity, gardening can be very useful.

Gardening is a healthy activity to replace drug or alcoholuse. People in recovery are often encouraged to take up one or two new hobbiesto fill in extra time in beneficial ways. Gardening can become a distractionfrom cravings and negative thoughts, helping to prevent a relapse. New skillslearned in creating a garden promote self-confidence and create an importantsense of purpose.

Creating a vegetable garden may help someone in recoverystart a healthier diet. Gardening provides physical activity to improve overallhealth. Spending time outdoors and in nature improves measures of physical andmental health, including lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, boosting theimmune system, and reducing anxiety and depression. Gardening can also act as atype of meditation during which a person can reflect and focus the mind.

Gardening for Addiction Recovery

Gardening and addiction recovery go hand-in-hand. There aremany ways you can use this activity to help promote recovery. For instance, youmay just want to take up gardening in your yard. If you’re new to gardening, startsmall. Work on one flower bed or starta small vegetable patch.

You can also use gardening for addiction recovery in a morestructured way. Consider taking classes through a countyextension office, local nursery and gardening center, or through a facilitythat offers outpatient treatment and aftercare services. Many rehab centershave ongoing programs for people in recovery, including classes with activitieslike gardening and group support sessions in the garden.

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Read more about Gardening Tips & Information

Horticulture therapy engages people in gardening and plant-based activities to achieve specific therapeutic and rehabilitation treatment goals. Gardening is a popular, readily accessible, and recreational way to enjoy a variety of healthy lifestyle activities. Horticulture therapy combines the therapeutic nature of a custom-designed environment with tasks aimed at meeting the therapeutic needs of people in recovery.

Research has shown that horticulture therapy increases motivation, stimulates the five senses, and is a healthy way to boost self-esteem.

Stress and anxiety play major roles in addiction for many people. Horticulture therapy has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety when it’s used as a therapeutic tool. This is due to the effects that communing with nature has on the body, such as reducing blood pressure and heart rate, as well as cortisol levels, which contribute to stress.

The physical activity involved in gardening also helps participants exercise, improve their physical health and well-being, and lose weight.

Healing Gardens

Across the country, healing gardens are being used in addiction treatment programs, nursing homes and mental health programs. These aren’t just nice gardens to walk through with a bench to sit and enjoy the professionally landscaped design. These gardens are raised and tended to by the patients of the programs. They become a place for people to actively participate in a recovery program. Patients become more self-aware while gardening and are also able to see tangible effects of their hard work and choices. Food gardens can be cultivated and harvested for some of the food in residential programs. And counseling sessions may be held in the garden.

Tips on Gardening for Mental Health

You can include gardening in your life in many ways.В

Get involved at a community garden. A community garden is a shared space where people grow plants in one large area or in smaller individual plots. Search online for community gardens near you. This is also a great place to ask questions and learn from experienced gardeners.

Decide what you want to grow. Do you have a favorite flower, fruit, or vegetable? Different plants need varying amounts of care. Make choices about what to grow based on how much time you have, where you live, and how much money you can invest in your plants.

Grow plants indoors. You don’t need to own land to start gardening. Plenty of plants grow well indoors in pots or planters. All you need is a window or artificial sunlight source, potting soil, containers, and other supplies based on what plants you grow.


‌AgriLife Today: “Gardening can influence and benefit your mental health.”

‌American Journal of Public Health: “A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study.”

‌Clinical Medicine: “Gardening for health: a regular dose of gardening.”

‌KidsGardening: “Indoor Gardening.”

‌Mental Health America: “Mental Health Treatments.”

‌Mind: “About self-esteem.”

‌RHS: “Minimising health risks in the garden.”

‌Soil Science Society of America: “Community Gardens.”

‌UF/IFAS: “Common Gardening Mistakes.”

‌Urban Policy and Research: "‘Dig In’ to Social Capital: Community Gardens as Mechanisms for Growing Urban Social Connectedness.”

5. It Improves Your Physical Health

In recovery, it is important to make sure you exercise regularly to help your body heal from addiction. Drugs and alcohol take a toll on the body, especially your heart, liver, and stomach. As you work out, your body’s circulation will begin to improve and your organs, such as your liver, will begin to cleanse your blood of toxins. Although less intense than other aerobic activities, with about 10 minutes of work in a garden planting, raking, and digging, you will actually increase your heart rate and also begin to build muscle.

Recommended Book

To learn about how to make your garden prosper, try reading The Art of Simple Food II by Alice Waters.

The Art of Simple Food II celebrates the garden and the gardener. It’s not a “vegetarian” cookbook, yet it’s all about the vegetable. This is not a flashy cookbook with shiny pictures. But it’s the book you go to when you come back from the garden with an armful of kale or broccoli rabe or dirty turnips, and you find a novel way to celebrate that day’s harvest. Or – if you are not a gardener – it frees you to shop the farmer’s market with an open mind and buy something fresh and interesting, and then you will come home and find a way to use that kohlrabi or eggplant or chicory. The book is a great read, very educational about each vegetable and best conditions for growing, harvesting, etc.

The first step is to know that your questions and feelings are normal. The next step is to talk to someone about those feelings.

Click below to start your recovery journey today!


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