When someone is trying to overcome an addiction to alcohol or drugs, there are several therapies that are helpful during the recovery process.
One of them is gardening therapy, also known as horticultural therapy. It offers a variety of benefits for recovering addicts.
According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, “A therapeutic garden is a plant-dominated environment purposefully designed to facilitate interaction with the healing elements of nature. Interactions can be passive or active depending on the garden design and users’ needs. There are many sub-types of therapeutic gardens including healing gardens, enabling gardens, rehabilitation gardens, and restorative gardens.”
Benefit 1: Improve Socialization Skills
Many addicts forget how to communicate with others in an appropriate way. When they work in a community garden, they learn how to talk to the other gardeners. A master gardener may give guidelines to the amateur gardeners, and each person must communicate with others to understand how to organize and tend the garden.
Benefit 2: Provide an Exercise Opportunity
Working in a garden offers mild to strenuous physical activity, with lots of stretching and lifting. It’s essential for recovering addicts to exercise. While it is possible to exercise on gym equipment such as elliptical machines or stationary bicycles, that repetitive type of workout can become boring quickly.
Benefit 3: Exposure to Natural Sunlight
Our body creates vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. This essential nutrient is frequently lacking in addicts, as they’ve led an unhealthy lifestyle by partying at night or isolating themselves. The exposure to natural sunlight while gardening helps the body create more vitamin D, and the recovering addict will feel more energetic and mentally alert.
Benefit 4: Reduce Anxiety
Working in a garden is an enjoyable activity, and it can reduce a recovering addict’s anxiety level. Anyone going through withdrawal symptoms will feel edgy, but working in nature while growing herbs, flowers, and vegetables is therapeutic and can ease that feeling.
Benefit 5: Improve Self-esteem
Growing plants in a garden to provide fruits or vegetables for the other individuals in a rehabilitation community is a rewarding feeling. In addition, gardeners sometimes have a chance to give nutritious foods to other people who are struggling to have enough to eat. This can help to improve feelings of self-esteem.
Benefit 6: Increase Concentration Levels
To garden effectively, the gardener must focus on planting seeds or seedlings correctly, finding weeds to pull from the soil, and other tasks. This can be a helpful way to increase the recovering addict’s concentration levels so they can return to school or find a job after leaving a rehabilitation center.
Benefit 7: Release Anger
Working in a garden can help release feelings of anger. Pulling weeds, digging in the soil, and focusing on gardening tasks can help an addict work away feelings of anger at themselves and others concerning their addiction.
Benefit 8: Improve Sleep Quality
Addicts in recovery frequently have trouble sleeping. The exposure to sunlight and physical activity help to relax the gardener and allow them to achieve a better night’s sleep.
Benefit 9: Provide a Purpose Each Day
Growing fruits and vegetables or beautifying a property with shrubs and flowers impart a remarkable sense of well-being.
Benefit 10: Overcome Depression
Most addicts in recovery experience some form of depression and gardening can be highly therapeutic when accompanied by counseling and appropriate medications.
Benefit 11: Learn a Work Skill
Growing organic produce can become a new work skill. Organic fruits and vegetables are in high demand and local farms are often in need of staff.
Choose a Recovery Facility With a Gardening Therapy Program
Before entering a recovery facility, addicts should consider the types of therapies offered at the facility. In addition to music, art, and pet therapy, select an addiction center that has a gardening therapy program.
Peter Lang is a freelance writer from Atlanta. In recovery himself, he is passionate about helping others who struggle with alcohol or drug addiction. This article was first published on The Big Blog of Gardening.