Do you have a green thumb? It is the time of year for planting and growing. Maybe you look forward to this season, or perhaps you would rather do anything other than spend time weeding, planting, and harvesting. It does get a little dirty, after all.

You may feel intimidated by gardening, having little experience or exposure to plants. The truth is, anyone can reap the benefits of gardening and caring for plants, green thumb or not. It just requires a willingness to dedicate a little time to interact with nature and the desire to learn.

Gardening, while it seems simple, can actually be very therapeutic. Believe it or not, this theory dates back to the late 1700s, which is when gardening was first considered to be a form of therapy used to benefit individuals suffering from mental illness. Since then, horticultural therapy has evolved and become more widely utilized in various clinical and treatment settings.

Horticultural Therapy Defined

Horticultural therapy is defined as the use of gardening or plants to improve one’s mental or physical health. Methods can vary depending on the population being served and for what purpose. Strategies could include caring for plants, viewing plants or nature, or harvesting food from plants. This form of therapy can be used in many different settings such as hospitals, treatment facilities, and even prison systems. Studies have shown vast improvements in both mental and physical health of individuals who were exposed to or engaged with gardens or green spaces during times of need.

Benefits of Horticultural Therapy

The therapeutic effects of gardening result from several different components of the activity. In summary,  gardening combines physical activity with social interaction and exposure to nature and sunlight. Gardening typically takes place outdoors in an esthetically pleasing setting. Various studies have been conducted on the benefits of spending time in a green space, and what could be greener than a garden? Regular interaction with nature has been shown to improve healing and reduce stress and anxiety. Even viewing trees or plants can help improve your mood and promote positive change. Engaging with nature results in even better outcomes.

Maintaining a garden requires care and attention. This level of dedication has tremendous benefits for those experiencing hardships. Gardening can serve as an outlet, something positive to focus on during treatment. Many battling drug or alcohol addiction feel as though they have lost control of their lives. Maintaining a garden offers a sense of control and responsibility for something that feels manageable.

Reduces Stress

Gardening has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, which, in turn, reduces stress. What about gardening specifically reduces stress, you may ask? Spending time caring for plants or even pulling weeds distracts your mind from other, more burdensome thoughts and directs your attention to the immediate task you are completing. Spending between 20-30 minutes in nature or caring for a garden significantly reduces levels of the stress hormone, resulting in a more calm and peaceful mood.

Encourages Productivity

There is nothing quite like getting to watch and enjoy the fruits of your labor. By growing your own food, herbs, or even flowers, you are able to see the product of your hard work. Caring for plants and feeling responsible for them can create a sense of purpose. This can be very rewarding and even empowering during a time when you may feel powerless in many aspects of your life.

Promotes Physical Activity

If you have ever worked in a garden, you know it can be hard work! There is quite a bit of bending, digging, and movement involved. Gardening is a great way to squeeze in a little physical activity that feels less like exercise and more like a hobby. Growing your own food also encourages healthier eating. You are more likely to eat healthy foods when they are easily accessible. What area is more accessible than your backyard?

Gardening During Treatment and Recovery

Spending time caring for plants or a garden during treatment and throughout recovery can serve as an excellent therapeutic outlet. As mentioned, gardening can help ease the negative thoughts and burdens you may be carrying by directing your focus to the present. The environment alone can be uplifting, and feeling the responsibility to care for something and succeed in that task can be very rewarding.

Health and wellness are incredibly important during treatment and throughout recovery. Gardening promotes healthy eating and physical activity and encourages frequent exposure to nature. Each of these components is important to good mental and physical health. Experiencing nature is encouraged throughout treatment and recovery, so time spent getting your hands a little dirty in a garden is time well spent.

Gardening is a hobby for many, but for others, it can also be very therapeutic. Caring for plants or a garden produces a sense of purpose, pride, and responsibility. When these efforts are successful, and you are able to see the outcomes of your work, it can be very rewarding and empowering. Spending time in nature has been proven to have healing benefits and improve mental and physical health. Gardening encourages physical activity, outdoor exposure, and healthy eating, all of which work together to promote overall well-being. Enlightened Solutions incorporates gardening as part of the treatment experience and encourages frequent interaction with nature. Allow us to help you discover a more fulfilling life by offering programs designed to give you a healthy and fulfilled life. If you or someone you care about is battling substance abuse, call Enlightened Solutions today at (833) 801-LIVE