At New Directions for Women, we provide various activities in which patients actively participate daily. One activity that our women of all ages enjoy as a part of their recovery process is gardening. Gardening is more than just a fun activity for our patients. In fact, gardening acts as a form of therapy. The benefits of garden therapy are both experiential and treatment and goal-focused.
What Garden Therapy Means to Patients
Gardening can have various meanings for each patient. The meaning it has for each individual patient is dependent on him or her.
For those in addiction treatment at New Directions for Women, gardening can fill any sense of loneliness that patients might feel while they are away from their friends and family. This is partly because gardening often turns into a social activity that the patients can do together.
Gardening can also fill the void of loneliness within our patients by distracting them from their feelings. By providing a time period that’s full of pure happiness, garden therapy doesn’t give patients a moment to feel lonely.
The happiness that gardening provides can also remind patients of the joys they used to feel when they would tend to their own gardens at home before addiction to drugs or alcohol got in the way.
Thinking about the memories that gardening sometimes brings back, gives our patients the opportunity to reflect on their life and how addiction has affected it. By sparking reflection within the minds of our patients, horticulture therapy also helps them identify the things in the things in their life that they need to change.
Experiential Benefits of Garden Therapy
There are many benefits to the experiential activity of gardening. For patients, gardening can be a means of spirituality and meditation. This, in turn, can cause gardening to turn into a form of garden therapy.
Development of a Positive Hobby
Gardening can also serve as a positive hobby for patients. In taking on the hobby of gardening, patients can develop new skills and techniques. The acquirement of new skills and techniques helps improve the confidence of our patients.
Patient confidence continues to grow as patients begin to see the garden that they tended to grow and flourish. Seeing such positive results from their own work helps patients feel a sense of accomplishment. It is extremely therapeutic to plant a seed and see something beautiful grow over time. Garden therapy symbolizes the patients’ growth and transformation during the recovery process at rehab.
Provides a Sense of Purpose
Gardening gives a sense of purpose for the day. This, in turn, builds the self-esteem of our patients. By mastering new skills and accomplishing a goal, gardening can motivate patients to tackle other goals or obstacles in their life. This can include those related to their addiction.
Gives You a Distraction from Addiction
Although gardening can motivate a patient to tackle her addiction after the fact, during the act of gardening itself, patients are given the opportunity to focus on something other than their addiction. This helps relieve stress within our patients. By doing this, gardening once again turns into garden therapy.
Treatment Process Benefits of Garden Therapy
Gardening at New Directions for Women has numerous benefits during the treatment process.
Encourages Healthy Habits
Growing fresh food encourages healthy eating habits while providing a boost in vitamin D from sunshine exposure. By improving your health and boosting your vitamin D intake, gardening can improve your overall mood, thus becoming horticulture therapy.
Provides Physical Exercise
The act of gardening also acts as a form of exercise. It may not seem like it, but all the physical actions that you do while gardening can get your heart racing and make you sweat. For example, the action of pulling weeds is very labor-intensive. This is especially true when it is done in the hot sun. Exercising helps release mood-boosting endorphins, thus turning gardening into garden therapy again.
Benefits of the New Directions for Women Gardening Group
At New Directions for Women, our gardening group helps facilitate the mind and body connection, as well as the woman’s spiritual connection, while working with the earth and the sun. By connecting the mind, body, and spirit of a person, gardening can almost act as a form of cognitive-behavioral garden therapy.
The New Directions for Women gardening group also offers education on proper planting techniques, planting times, seasons, and maintenance of plants. Such education gives patients the opportunity to grow and gain knowledge. This could help patients further build on their self-esteem.
Education can also motivate patients to learn about other things. This could only help the addiction recovery journey of these patients. For example, gardening can allow a patient to explore and connect with her Higher Power while navigating through the 12 Steps.
12 Steps for Addiction Recovery
The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous created the 12-step program to help people overcome alcohol addiction. The success of the alcoholic 12-step program led other addiction support groups to adapt it to fit their needs.
Like garden therapy, the 12-step program is founded on spiritual principles. Still, many people who are not religious benefit from this program. Because addiction recovery is a lifelong journey, there is no “correct” way to manage the 12 step program. As a result, people can go through the 12 steps in any order they want. You can even go back and focus on steps that you’ve already focused on in the past or focus on multiple of the 12 steps at one time if it pleases you.
The first 3 steps of addiction recovery are the foundation of the 12 step program. Thus, all addicts should practice the first 3 steps of the 12 step program every day.
The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are the following:
- Admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
- Made a list of persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the results of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The Long-Term Healing and Motivational Benefits of Garden Therapy
The gardens at New Directions for Women provide more than a beautiful landscape and a healthy environment of care. The benefits that our women receive are those which can be carried throughout the rest of their lives. If this does not prove that what is done on these lands is garden therapy, we don’t know what does.
About Our Meditation Garden
Last year, New Directions for Women dedicated a meditation garden in remembrance of beloved employees and Board Members, Rev. Dr. Maurice Wilson, Pauline Nelson, and Meredith Foreman. The garden serves as a place to help women who are in the process of healing from something. It also serves as a space for where the New Directions for Women staff can renew their spirits. That way they are able to continue the vital work of helping heal women, families, and their children.
Come Visit Us
Please consider visiting our beautiful, homey, and tranquil environment. New Directions for Women has been serving the Costa Mesa community since 1977 and is Orange County’s oldest women-only, gender-specific treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction.
Forms of treatment that we provide outside of gardening and garden therapy include yoga, acupuncture, psychodrama, mindfulness meditation, regular physical exercise, art, and other forms of experiential therapy. One reason why we provide all these different treatments is to help our patients overcome Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). That way our patients’ lives are no longer defined by past trauma.
Reach Out for Help Today
New Directions for Women is a treatment facility located in California that offers help to women who desire a similar result. Our caring admissions counselors are available 24/7 to take your call and answer any questions you may have on getting help. Contact us today. We can help. Stay in the loop with New Directions for Women by connecting with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.