Why Gardening During Treatment Nurtures The Mind & Spirit For People In Addiction Recovery
For many people, exposure to nature can have a profound healing effect on the mind and body. Gardening is increasingly being used as a therapeutic approach to the treatment of addiction and mental health. As such, many addiction recovery centers and other healthcare facilities are now employing “healing gardens.”
Garden therapy, sometimes called horticultural therapy, can help ease stress, anxiety, and foster self-confidence and teamwork. Rewards are often both immediate and long-term, as gardeners can enjoy watching the plants grow and change over time. Simply put, there is something about watching life emerge from a seed and nurturing it into a thriving plant that can be very rewarding.
Gardening can foster an increased sense of self-worth and self-purpose, particularly for those in recovery who have few close friends or family. Spending time in nature has been found to reduce blood pressure and stress, and well as and bolster the immune system. These are all incredibly positive benefits for the body, mind, and spirit during recovery.
Healing gardens often serve as a sanctuary for those undergoing addiction treatment – moreover, a place to develop new skills, one which also offers a much-needed distraction from active recovery. They also raise self-awareness, and many say they promote spirituality in some way.
Therapeutic gardening allows patients the opportunity to become part of nature, grow fruits and vegetables, and interact with wildlife, such as butterflies and birds.
For those who have actively engaged in gardening before admission into treatment, garden therapy is a very welcome addition to the program, and many report feeling relieved that they can continue their hobby throughout recovery.
Relief From Co-Occurring Conditions
Most substance addictions do not exist in a vacuum – moreover, they are a product of an underlying psychological condition such as depression, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder. People in recovery who also experience these other conditions can benefit from healing gardens, which may play a critical role in mental health improvement, as well as recovery from addiction.
There are several psycho-social, emotional, physical and spiritual benefits associated with healing gardens. They offer:
- Effective treatment for PTSD and anxiety
- Low impact exercise
- Promotion of social interaction
- Confidence boosting
- Relief from negative feelings such as anger
- Heightened mental awareness
- Therapeutic Gardening and Addiction Treatment
Recovery For Life
One of the greatest benefits from gardening therapy is the positive long-term impact it can have in the life of a person in recovery – after discharge, many find that they have developed a new passion for nature and gardening, which offers them a means to remain happily occupied and sober following inpatient treatment.
After discharge during aftercare recovery, maintaining a garden doesn’t have to be a full-fledged affair – it can be as simple as maintaining potted herbs or plants in the home, partaking in a community garden, or creating a rooftop sanctuary.
Also popular are small zen gardens, or Japanese rock gardens, as they are also known, which are designed to aid in meditation. Although they may not involve gardening in the strictest sense, they can bring peace and enjoyment to those who do not the time or the inclination to care for plants or a full-fledged garden.
Although the mind-body healing benefits of gardening have not been the subject of extensive research, it’s hard to deny that taking the time to walk in a park or tend a garden can promote mental and physical wellness and an overall positive outlook on life.
And given the enormous therapeutic benefits to gardening, it is rapidly becoming an established approach to therapy, led by organizations such as the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AAHT). The AAHT publishes the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, which is a “highly-regarded academic journal reports on the latest research findings in HT and related fields…”
According to the AAHT, gardening or horticultural “ participants to learn new skills or regain those that are lost” and “helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialization.”
“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all, it teaches entire trust.
The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.”
~ Gertrude Jekyll
Seek Help Today
If you or someone you love is engaging in substance abuse, please seek treatment as soon as possible. There are many resources available to help you or your loved one.
Please call us today at 888-380-0667 for a free consultation.
Note: Gardening therapy is not intended for use as a standalone treatment for addiction or mental illness. It is one tool that may be employed in the context of a customized, comprehensive treatment program.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
Clatworthy J, Hinds J, M. Camic P. Gardening as a mental health intervention: a review. Mental Health Review Journal. 2013 Nov 29;18(4):214-25.
Mcsweeney J, Rainham D, Johnson SA, et al. Indoor nature exposure (INE): a health-promotion framework. Health Promot Int. 2015 Mar;30(1):126-39.