Immersing yourself in nature is a great way to recharge your mind and feel at peace. Even if you have no experience tending to plants, gardening can be a great outdoor activity that reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, increases physical activity, and builds a stronger connection to the natural world. For individuals struggling with addiction, gardening has proven to be successful in helping them improve their mental, physical, and spiritual wellness. Because of gardening’s many health benefits, it is oftentimes recognized as a form of therapy called horticulture therapy.
Below are five ways that gardening can support your addiction recovery:
- Establishes a routine
- Reduces anxiety
- Increases physical fitness
- Helps you eat healthier
- Teaches you perseverance
1. Gardening Establishes a Routine
Gardening is a great way to focus your time and energy. If you struggled with addiction, your day was likely centered around using and finding substances rather than keeping up with your responsibilities. To successfully grow fruits and vegetables or plants and flowers, daily commitment is necessary. Gardening will help you relearn how to systematically restructure your day. You will need to allocate specific time, 15 minutes to an hour, each morning to tend to your garden. Part of this routine will include regularly watering your plants, removing pesky weeds when they pop up, and guiding your plants with stakes or trellises. Sometimes, you may have to build fencing or wire netting to protect your plants from animals. With consistent time and dedication, you will create a beautiful natural space and establish a productive routine.
2. Gardening Reduces Anxiety
Gardening can benefit your mental health by directing your thoughts and providing a meditative experience all from the comfort of your home. Oftentimes, if you’re suffering from anxiety, you might ruminate over the same negative thought or memory without completion. Gardening, whether you are planting seeds or pulling weeds, helps you disrupt those harmful thought patterns and remain in the present focused on one activity. In addition, studies have shown that certain bacteria in soil can actually raise serotonin levels in your brain, and in turn, boost your overall happiness. Being in and physically connecting with nature, even for a few moments a day, helps you escape from life’s daily stressors and calms your mind.
3. Gardening Increases Physical Fitness
Gardening is not usually considered a strenuous exercise, but 30 minutes of gardening can burn up to 300 calories. Lack of exercise, poor diet, fatigue, and low motivation are all reasons that your physical health suffers during addiction. Fortunately, as you are digging, raking, bending down, and stretching in the garden, you are engaging all your muscle groups and increasing your strength, stamina, and flexibility. After about 15 minutes of moderate movement, you can raise your heart rate and blood circulation throughout the body. Certain gardening activities, like sowing seeds, can even help you improve your coordination.
4. Gardening Helps You Eat Healthier
When you become sober, it’s important to consume nutritious foods that restore the proper vitamins and minerals your body lost while addicted. As you plant the seeds and work on your garden, you will also start reaping its tasty benefits. The produce that you grow will be packed with more nutrients than the ones you get from the grocery store, since commercial farms often harvest vegetables before they’ve fully ripened. Commercial produce is also often sprayed with harmful chemicals to make them look more appealing to consumers. However, the fruits and vegetables that you grow in a garden are picked when they are supposed to be harvested, which is also when they are packed with the most nutrients.
5. Gardening Teaches You Perseverance
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert gardener, you’ll find that things might not always go as planned. For example, you might come to realize you’re overwatering your plant when the leaves start wilting or browning. Other times, there could be a heat wave while you’re on vacation, leaving the soil bone dry. Not all hope is lost though – you might just need to tweak how you care for your plants to get them back to full health. Gardening trains you to have patience and recognize that recovery, like gardening, might take some trial and error too.
Just as every plant is unique and requires different amounts of water and sunlight to thrive, with time and perseverance, you will discover exactly what you need to become both mentally and physically fit— in other words, how to feel happy and confident in your own skin and regain your strength and stamina lost during drug use. Gardening will teach you to keep trying new things in recovery until you find what works best for you.
Anyone can start a garden. The best part is that you don’t need a big backyard or a green thumb to participate in this therapeutic practice. Whether you grow a variety of fruits and vegetables at your local community garden or plant a few herbs on your kitchen windowsill, you will grow alongside your garden.
To learn more about the benefits of gardening and how to make your plants prosper, try reading The Art of Simple Food II by Alice Waters.
In The Art of Simple Food II, Alice Waters dives into the process of growing and cooking your own food, while also revealing the links between taste, cooking, gardening, and taking care of the land. Waters shares advice on how to grow a variety of crops throughout the entire year – from tender leaf lettuces to green beans to juicy peaches. Whether you are planting a garden in your backyard or in a few pots on your front porch, this book will help you fall in love with gardening.
Waters also includes recipes to guide you on how to make tasty meals after harvesting your crops or shopping at an organic food market. The book is a fun, versatile tool – perfect for the person who has never touched a seed in their life or the expert gardener who wants to understand how to best use their crops to live a healthier lifestyle.