While gardening has existed for millennia, today, gardening therapy is used to help people recover from alcohol and drug addiction.
Gardening is a powerful tool that can complement drug and alcohol addiction treatment. It’s an excellent activity for mental health. It helps you cope with stress, connect with nature, reflect on your life, and provides relaxation. Ideally, outdoor activities such as gardening provide mental aid in recovering from addiction and can boost your overall wellness.
How does gardening help you recover from addiction?
A therapist might recommend gardening as a therapeutic approach after people receive professional addiction rehabilitation treatment. Addiction is a severe mental and physical health disorder. It requires professional support and treatment. Gardening can play a significant role in ongoing recovery since it helps protect people from cravings, negative thoughts, and relapses.
It teaches people new skills and promotes self-confidence. It encourages people to plant, grow, and harvest healy food or cultivate interesting and beautiful flowers. Since recovery can stem from healthy diets, gardening can also help to improve overall health.
Spending time outside and working can strengthen our bodies and reduce our anxiety and stress.
Benefits of gardening
Enjoy a healthier diet
When you begin working on your garden, you will start enjoying the fruits of your labor. Your food is full of more fresh nutrients than you can find in a box or a package in your freezer. Commercially grown vegetables are often sprayed with chemicals to make them look good and last longer, but you don’t need chemicals to grow your own fruits and vegetables.
People with addictions to alcohol or drugs often don’t eat enough, have nutritional deficiencies, and experience other digestion issues. Insufficient minerals and vitamins can lead to severe mental and physical problems, so homegrown vegetables can help people restore their health.
Gain a stronger sense of purpose
Some people struggle with alcohol and drug abuse because they lack a sense of purpose. When you are gardening, you can focus your physical and mental energy on positive pursuits.
It’s a creative hobby that allows you to have fun while doing something productive that yields tangible results. Through gardening, you also learn how to set goals and make adjustments while your garden grows.
Obtain more vitamins
Dealing with alcohol or substance addiction can weaken your immune system. Vitamin D can boost your immune system, regulate your neuromuscular system, and help your body absorb more calcium to strengthen your bones.
Working in your garden can expose you to sunlight that might help your body produce vitamin D, but if you need to use sunscreen, you might want to take supplements to add vitamins and other nutrients to your body as well.
Your garden can help you practice compassion and respect toward people. As you watch your plants grow and spend time taking care of them, you might begin to feel a sense of connection and concern for them.
This compassion could spread to other areas. It might help you repair broken ties with your family, a partner, or other significant people in your life.
Improve your physical health
Alcohol or drug addiction can weaken the body, so it's vital to exercise regularly to regain your health. Working in the garden provides exercise.
Did you know that gardening involves aerobic activities and other components of fitness? When planting, raking, digging, and weeding, you are active. The actions can increase your heart rate and help you build muscles.
Make social connections
Gardening helps you create more meaningful relationships with your family and friends. It can help you connect with the larger community.
Neighbors may be eager to ask you what you’re growing and you might have a few questions about their gardens. These conversations can help you build stronger bonds with neighbors. Talking with people provides the opportunity to discuss problems and solve them, so people might be more willing to help each other.
Planting and maintaining a garden is a long-term activity that can help you live longer. Often, the things you plant require a certain amount of time to show results.
If you plant vegetables, you typically have to wait for months before harvesting them. This could be a metaphor for recovery from addiction. People don’t wake up one day and find that they’re free from their addictions. They have to work continuously on their recovery to be successful.
Improve sleep quality
Addiction to drugs and alcohol can affect people’s sleep. So can recovery from an addiction.
Spending time outdoors and participating in physical activities such as gardening can be physically exhausting and mentally engaging. The activities may tire people and help them find more restful sleep.
Depression sometimes contributes to alcohol and drug addiction, and addiction can make people depressed. Studies have found that spending time in green spaces can help alleviate depression.
Participating in activities such as gardening as well as receiving counseling (and possibly medication) can be highly therapeutic for treating addiction and depression.
Physical work in the garden can help you channel feelings such as anger. Plucking pesky weeds from a flower bed can help you use your aggressions in positive ways.
Digging can be meditative, because it can help you focus your mind and energy on the task ahead of you. Gardening helps you focus your emotions to perform productive tasks.
For many people, working in the garden is an enjoyable activity. It can help reduce anxiety for people in recovery.
If people have just stopped using drugs or alcohol, they could be experiencing withdrawal symptoms that make them feel anxious or restless. Working in nature can be therapeutic because it requires people to slow down and focus.
Incorporating gardening in your recovery
People who are recovering from addiction might want to try gardening. It’s a practice that yields several positive health benefits and produces amazing plants.
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