Addiction Recovery And Horticultural Therapy
As the summer begins, life opens up to new possibilities.
When the weather gets warmer, the opportunity for a greater variety of outdoor activities arrives, and it is important for those in drug and alcohol rehab recovery to take full advantage of the physical and mental health benefits available from spending time in nature and out of the house. This is an ideal time for a resident in recovery to put into action new skills and strategies for coping with addiction. Gardening is one of the most calming, satisfying and accessible activities available for those in recovery to adopt as their own. Witnessing life emerge from a small seed to be then nurtured it into a thriving plant is incredibly rewarding.
Addiction Recovery And The Benefits Of Gardening
In his essay ‘Soil Sacrament’, David Weale calls gardeners the ‘constant ones…for they seem to have in them something of the deep wisdom of the earth, and the quiet exuberance of all that grows.’
Although the restorative benefits of gardening have not as of yet been subjected to rigorous scientific studies, no one can deny that making time for a walk in the parc, or working in a garden gives a person a significantly more positive outlook on their day. Spending time in nature has been proven to lower blood pressure, reduce stress and boost the immune system, all ideal effects for the body, mind and spirit in recovery. Gardening is an ideal tool for those in addiction recovery and is also perfect for anyone suffering from concurrent disorders such as PTSD, anxiety and depression. Being in and working with nature helps to put life in perspective and to provide a space for working through issues via the meditative quality of the experience.
Gardening is the perfect way to work on developing new skills, an ability to meditate and focus, and also to work through problems. Witnessing a garden you have nurtured flourish from a plot of empty soil into a vibrant ecosystem is one of the most satisfying accomplishments there is and creates a powerful sense of purpose. While nurturing a plant, you can see how the careful and patient care correlates to the developments a resident undergoes during addiction treatment recovery.
It is very easy to read parallels between slow and careful nurturing of life in a garden and the slow and careful path to recovery. It is crucial in gardening to create the ideal environment in which a plant can thrive.
Like our other alternative therapies, gardening can help those in addiction recovery fill the void left behind when they must cut off contact from old friends and most of their routines of social life. It can be especially difficult after graduating from residential drug and alcohol rehab therapy to discover ways to fill leisure time with friends and family that had originally been taken up by substance abuse. Gardening presents a way to fill this time, but also as a form of re-growth through meditation, or even a means of meeting new people via spaces such as community gardens.
Since there are so many therapeutic benefits to gardening, horticultural therapy is swiftly becoming an established form of therapy, with the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association (CHTA) and the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AAHT) leading the way. The CHTA defines Horticultural therapy as “the use of plants and the natural world to improve the social, spiritual, physical and emotional well-being of individuals who participate in it.” Even celebrities such as Britney Spears and Russell Brand have used horticultural therapy to support their recovery from mental health and addiction issues.
As the practice of horticultural therapy grows increasingly popular, so will the availability of programs across the world. However, it is not necessary to participate in an organised horticultural therapy program to reap the benefits to the mind body and soul that come with gardening.
How To Garden In The City
Even if you live in the city it is easy to grow your own garden. In many cities around the world it is now possible to become a member of a community garden- a shared green space in the middle of the urban landscape. These areas are calming and inspiring spaces in which to be- full of flowers and vegetables and a big draw for birds and butterflies. This kind of space has wonderfully meditative and rejuvenating effects. If there is not already a community garden in your town, consider organising one! Organisations such as the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) have great resources on gardening and organising a community garden.
If you prefer the meditative solitude of your own garden, consider establishing one in your backyard, or apartment, if your space is limited. Many people have found it easy to grow very plentiful harvests of fruit and vegetables in as little space as a small balcony by creating container gardens. For more information on container gardening, follow these easy steps outlined in this guide from Alternatives and the Rooftop Garden Project.
Nourishing Your Garden
An important element of gardening is providing your plants with the nourishment they need to thrive. At Sobriety Home, as well as at our sister rehab center Searidge Drug Rehab and Searidge Alcohol Rehab, we commit to the practice of red worm composting, which is one of the easiest and most sustainable practices to maintain for reducing the production of waste.
Red worm composting consists of a compost bin in which live hundreds of red worms. These worms digest all of the organic material that we produce at Searidge and turn it into compost that we use for the gardens on our grounds. This practice reduces the waste that we produce enormously, and leaves us with lots of healthy food for our gardens. Red worm composting can be practiced in any apartment or home, and if done properly, is very easy to ignore. It is very simple to set up, and many guides are available online.
Now that you have all the information and tools necessary to begin the rejuvenating activity of gardening, it is time to get outside!
Enjoy The Beauty Of Addiction Recovery In Nature
Even if you are not able or not interested in gardening, visiting a green space in your neighbourhood has great physical and mental health benefits. Getting outside in nature is especially important to make time for this considering so many people must now work in offices sitting down for many hours of the day.
At Sobriety Home we commit to include everyone who visits us to our gardens. The healing and rejuvenating effects of being out in nature, particularly in the picturesque surroundings of Annapolis Valley, are ideal for addiction recovery. As David Weale said in his story, there is nothing quite as inspiring as the simplicity of a ‘reunion with the healing earth.’
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