The Benefits of Gardening in Addiction Recovery

By: Megan Tyler, Recovery Coach

Megan Tyler, Recovery Coach at the Pine Rest’s residential substance use disorder program has created beautiful, raised garden beds in the program’s courtyard this year and implemented caring for these gardens as part of her recovery coach classes.

Folks recovering from drugs and alcohol need to incorporate meaningful activities into their life to help them grow mentally, physically, and spiritually and find joy in doing them.

“Gardens decrease depression and anxiety, provide a way to develop control in a positive manner, a sense of accomplishment, replace obsessive thoughts to use, and improve in physical health, socialization skills, and mental well-being,” shared Megan.

According to the Mayo Clinic, additional benefits of gardening include:

  • Increased exercise from carrying supplies, digging, raking, as well as squatting and lunging to pull weeds.
  • Improved diet from growing and eating your own fruits and vegetables.
  • Deeper breathing is stimulated by spending time in nature stimulates deeper breathing which has a multitude of health benefits including clearing out the lunch, improving digestion and immune response and increasing oxygen levels.
  • Increased vitamin D levels from time in sunlight which helps to protect from osteoporosis, reduce inflammation as well as modulate processes in your body such as cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and glucose metabolism.
  • Reduced stress levels and blood pressure by providing regular opportunities to slow down.

“I can tell you in my experience of early recovery, I watered plants in the gardens of a major home supply store,” said Megan. “I believe that the calm I felt just being around the gardens, knowing that I had a part in creating a beautiful environment again, gave me back a sense of purpose, and strength to move forward, release the darkness and live a life of beauty in all ways of life. So, when I say that this can be life-changing, even for one individual, I say this with a true experience and only share what I know worked for me.”


Everyone can benefit from gardening, but not all of us live in a house with a yard. Don’t be deterred, there are plenty of ways to get outside and garden even if you don’t have a yard.  


  • Join a community garden or start one. You’ll receive the added benefits of increased social interaction, developing new friendships and an enhanced sense of community and belonging. 
  • Volunteer at a local park, garden or farm. Volunteering can fill your life with meaning and purpose. Knowing you’re making a tangible difference can be profoundly satisfying and affirming. If you live in Grand Rapids, the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks have a multitude of volunteer opportunities from helping remove invasive species to adopting a park.
  • If you have a patio or balcony, plant a container or vertical garden. You can find plenty of ideas online, but a good place to start is “How to create the perfect balcony garden” by Garden Design.
  • Find out if your apartment building or complex has an area where you can start a garden…either on the grounds or on the rooftop.

You are not alone! We can support you or your loved one at every step of recovery.

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