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Gardening: A Sober Activity to De-stress and Center

Feb 11, 2022

By Ali Frances, Horticulture Specialist

Hanley Center has a beautiful raised bed garden on the east side of the main campus. Connection, calm, teamwork, and accomplishment are some of the benefits patients have experienced from working in the garden. Since it was built, one group a week has been coming to work in it. Patients have been sowing vegetable and flower seeds, transplanting mature plants, building trellises, weeding, fertilizing, and labeling. They have reported feeling useful, helpful, calmer, proud, and able to connect the process of growing plants to their process of recovery, both of which take openness, willingness, patience, and nurturing.

Over time many metaphors related to recovery have emerged.

Planting a seed and tending to plants – these things take time to yield results. Patients clearly see this in the work that we do in the garden. When we sow bean and tomato seeds, they understand that these plants will not be harvest-ready the next day or even the next week. But with patience, vigilance, nourishment, and time, their efforts will bear fruit. They are able to relate this to recovery – being patient with themselves, tending to their own needs, one day at a time. Step by step, their efforts add up and bear fruit.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.

A connection related to pruning was made.

After a morning of pruning, patients made a connection between that activity and healing. The group stepped back, satisfied with their efforts, and discussed how cutting away dead branches actually makes a plant more vibrant and healthier. They could see that the plants were lighter and greener. This brought up cutting away what doesn’t serve us, facing things, cleaning up our lives so that we could let more of our own light shine.

We also talk a lot about gardening as a sober activity and a great way to de-stress and center.

One patient who had never gardened, upon planting her first plant said, “When my hands hit the dirt, everything just went away.” She was referring to relentless mind-chatter that she hadn’t been able to quell. Others have reported feeling similarly during the gardening activity and have enjoyed returning to the garden during the week to check on their efforts and clear their minds.

Currently, we have several vegetables & herbs and edible & cutting flowers – kale, tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, basil, parsley, lemon balm, stevia, nasturtiums, violets – to name a few. I hope you will visit the garden and use it as a place to connect with nature and relax.


Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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