Many addiction treatment providers today recognize the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of horticultural therapy or gardening. Aside from being a relaxing pastime, gardening puts you back in touch with mother earth, allowing you to witness firsthand what small consistent doses of TLC can do to spring about new life.
5 Ways Gardening Can Help You Recover from Addiction and Avoid Relapse
Here are 5 ways that being outdoors, growing both food and flowers, can help you in your recovery journey.
1. Gardening boosts your vitamin D levels.
The need for vitamin D is satisfied with as little as 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure per day. Unlike supplements, vitamin D produced in the skin from sunlight costs nothing and is more easily absorbed into the body. People in the early stages of addiction recovery, whose immune systems may have been heavily impacted by addiction, could especially use vitamin D. Not only does this vitamin help the body in calcium absorption, but it’s also responsible for regulating the immune and neuromuscular systems.
2. Gardening is a fun way to exercise.
Addiction to drugs and alcohol impacts the heart, liver, kidneys, stomach, and other systems in the human body. As people in recovery work up a sweat in the garden, these organs regain homeostasis and return to vital health. Even as little as 10 minutes each day of raking, hoeing, and digging can increase heart rate, tone muscles, and remove toxins from the body through sweat.
Aside from physical benefits, people in early recovery can also experience an improvement in their outlook in life. People can experience shame and low self-esteem, which can heighten the chances of relapse. However, those who begin to see a change in their physical capacity, such as an improved physique or deeper sleep, will be more motivated to stick to their recovery. Seeing these benefits will also increase self-esteem as you obtain a stronger sense of purpose.
3. Gardening enables you to reap, serve and consume fresh produce.
The closer the source of produce is, the healthier they’re likely to be. Most fruits and vegetables available for purchase in markets are picked before they are fully ripe, shipped up to several hundred miles, and sprayed with substances to make them shiny and appealing. On the other hand, fresh fruits and vegetables grown in a garden are picked as they ripen in the sun, maximizing their nutrients and, if organically grown, are much healthier for those who eat them.
4. Gardening increases your sense of well-being and purpose.
Many people have lost touch with their sense of purpose. Addiction can rob a person of all emotions related to feeling good about what they are doing in the world. Gardening, on the other hand, increases self-worth by showing you that you can do something creative, fun, and purposeful and see fairly quick results. Through gardening, you recognize the value of time well-spent as well as go through the process of goal-setting and attainment. At the same time, gardening also helps develop patience and decision-making skills as you watch your garden grow into fruition.
5. Gardening promotes compassion.
Creative pursuits, including gardening, develop the right hemisphere of the brain, which is known to be the seat of compassion and a sense of oneness. This is particularly important for people who are recovering from addiction and who have severed relational ties to family and friends. Tending a garden brings you back to the sense of connection and concern for others, which may have been destroyed by addiction.
Getting Started With Your Garden
To begin your horticulture journey, select a plot of earth or create your own personal patch with a pot or window box, then plan what you want to grow. Perhaps it can be flowers to beautify your surroundings or vegetables to nourish your healthy lifestyle. Making this simple choice can generate a sensation of breaking free from old patterns.
Next, prepare the soil. Stake out your garden and use a shovel and hoe to loosen the soil. Then mix in nutrients to allow things to germinate. Remember, nothing grows without tilling, fertilization, and some tender loving care. As you care for and decide what to grow on your plot of land, it should also stir feelings of change and growth in you. You’ll be surprised at how amazing you’ll feel in turn on the inside.
For the best results, you may consider enlisting the help of a specialist. We recommend finding a professional who is registered with the American Horticultural Therapy Association and who can integrate this type of therapy into a custom program for you.
What Our Gardens Can Teach Us About Life (and Recovery)
The act of planting seeds, flowers, fruits, or vegetables in neat rows or wildly scattered patterns also livens up your sense of control. Once they’re buried in soil and you’re tending to them on a daily basis, it will only be a matter of time before the flowers bloom or the fruits and vegetables can be harvested. As with life, the decisions you make with this garden have a direct impact on its future.
In the end, witnessing your garden sprout due to your consistent efforts and realizing that you’re capable of directly changing your surroundings will give you a sense of accomplishment. You will also get a first-hand look at the benefits of what some planning, hard work, slow nurturing, and TLC can produce. As your garden continues to grow, it will be a figurative reminder to you that your daily choices and actions are what continue to keep you free in living a healthy and fruitful life.
Sometimes, surrendering to your powerlessness against addiction can leave you feeling hopeless. You may stare at your life wondering if a change is even possible. You continue to yearn for it, yet feel overwhelmed with doubt.
If this is you, one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself is quiet your thoughts and keep a one-track mind aimed at sobriety. Many people do this by spending time on something outside of themselves, such as exercise or creative arts. By making one small positive change to a familiar environment, horticulture therapy or gardening can provide healing to an individual by igniting a subtle but powerful shift in perspective.