person planting in the garden

5 Benefits of Gardening in Recovery


Sober Recovery Expert Author

person planting in the garden

Nowadays, many addiction treatment centers recognize the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of horticultural therapy or gardening. Aside from being a relaxing past time, 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.

Here are 5 ways that being outdoors, growing both food and flowers, can help you in your recovery journey.

These days, many addiction treatment centers are incorporating horticulture therapy to their recovery programs. Learn more about how this relaxing past time positively affects one’s well-being.

1. It 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, although those with darker skin tones may require more. Unlike supplements, vitamin D produced in the skin from sunlight costs nothing and is more easily absorbed into the body. People in early 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, it’s also responsible for regulating the immune and neuromuscular systems.

2. It’s a fun way to exercise.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol impact 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 benefit the recovering addict by increasing heart rate, toning muscles and removing toxins from the body through sweat.

Aside from physical benefits, people in early recovery can also experience an improvement in their outlook in life. Typically, individuals tend to 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 they obtain a stronger sense of purpose.

3. It 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. It increases your sense of well-being and purpose.

Many addicts have lost touch of their sense of purpose. Their addiction has robbed them 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 the addict they can do something creative, fun and purposeful that shows fairly quick results. Through this activity, they get to 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 they watch their garden grow into fruition.

5. It promotes compassion.

Creative pursuits, including gardening, develop the right hemisphere of the brain, which is known to be the seat of compassion and sense of oneness. This is particularly important for recovering addicts who have severed relational ties to family and friends. Tending a garden brings them back to the sense of connection and concern for others, which may have been destroyed by addiction.

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