After seeking treatment for mental health disorders, the challenge isn’t over. Although accepting help is the first step in recovery, what happens after you leave rehab and settle back into daily life may test your resolve and newfound coping strategies.
Fortunately, there are several ways to remain focused on wellness during recovery, one of which is plant parenting. Learn about this concept, why it’s beneficial to so many people following mental health treatment and the role it plays in self-care.
What Is Plant Parenting?
Plant parenting, a hobby popular with zoomers and millennials, refers to a person raising a plant as they might a child. You may have heard similar terms from pet owners, when people refer to owning a dog or cat as pet parenting.
The Benefits and Challenges of Plant Parenting for Mental Health Disorders
When you’re in recovery from a mental illness, plant parenting offers many potential benefits. It’s proven that spending time in nature can improve your mental health, which is why gardening is a key aspect of so many rehab programs across the United States. Gardening therapy occupies the hands and gives the mind something to focus on while learning new skills.
In addition, spending time attending to plants and watching them grow creates a rewarding experience that encourages patients in recovery to observe the positive effects of their commitment to another living thing. Other advantages of taking up plant parenting after rehab include:
Taking on a New Hobby
If you’re in recovery for addiction and substance abuse, a large portion of your journey involves giving up old habits that no longer serve you. Plant parenting offers a hobby to occupy your newfound free time in a healthy and productive way.
Reducing Stress Levels
Japanese researchers have found that spending just 30 minutes in nature reduces levels of cortisol, the human stress hormone. Taking on plant parenting as part of the recovery journey promotes lower stress levels and supports your mental health overall.
Another 12-week study on gardening and mental health found participants had lower levels of depression while they were working with plants immediately after the study concluded and were still seeing the benefits 3 months later.
Developing New Skills
Plant parenting requires you to develop the skills to nurture plants, transfer them to new pots, cultivate a garden and provide the correct amount of water and light. The process of learning how to care for plants can parallel the recovery process. Practicing patience and appreciating progress, no matter how slow, are necessary parts of both plant parenting and recovery from addiction.
Creating a Positive Daily Routine
Plants need consistent care, and establishing a daily or weekly routine can be a healthy part of a recovery plan. The practice of watering and tending to plants will give you structure in your life as you begin rebuilding after rehab.
Does Pet Ownership Also Help Mental Health?
Much like plant parenting, pet ownership can be a helpful part of addiction recovery and improving mental health. This is the ideology behind therapy animals for behavioral disorders.
Some people with depression may choose to get a dog or cat so that, like with plants, they have a living being to look after besides themselves. Not only can people with anxiety and depression care for pets, but studies actually show that pets help people with these mental health conditions by keeping them focused on the present and giving them tasks to do, like feeding the animal or going for a walk.
Pet ownership can also be good for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), especially in child development, because dogs have the ability to detect anxiety or stress. The animal can have a calming effect on its owner and encourage the development of social skills.
Establishing Structure and Responsibility After Rehab
An essential part of the recovery process is establishing structure in daily life after rehab. Having a well-defined routine helps you fill your free time in healthy ways, reducing the likelihood of a relapse. The benefits of developing a strong routine and maintaining a sense of responsibility during recovery can include:
- Practicing self-control
- Establishing a new normal day-to-day
- Having better self-esteem and confidence
- Keeping busy in a healthy way
Reaping these benefits of a structure in your day-to-day life means less time to focus on missing substances or returning to old habits.
Helpful Strategies for Building New Habits
Building a new habit and routine after rehab takes some time. On average, it takes 66 days to form a new habit, which means you need to commit to your newfound routine for at least 2 months before it becomes ingrained. Here are some useful tips and strategies for building and maintaining healthy habits after rehab and beyond.
Create a Plan
Having a clear trajectory for a project or habit helps you stay on track because you know what you’re working toward. For example, when plant parenting, create a plan for planting your garden in the spring. Stick to a schedule for watering it and weeding, and include in the plan when you should expect to start seeing results.
Don’t Wait for Inspiration
If you’re waiting until the mood strikes or you feel inspired to participate in the activity that forms your new habit or routine, you’ll never get where you need to go. Staying on track and forming a habit efficiently requires you to choose to put in the work and meet the daily or weekly commitment, even in the moments when you don’t feel like doing it.
As mentioned, habits take time to form. Just like with plant parenting, the results aren’t instant, but they’re always worth it. Be patient in your recovery process and don’t give up on a new habit or routine just because you aren’t seeing the desired outcome immediately.
Seeking Support and Community in This New Chapter
Support networks are key to staying on track in your recovery. As you enter the new chapter of your life after rehab, find a group of like-minded individuals who’ll hold you accountable and check on you.
If you’re beginning your recovery journey and want to take the first step towards an inpatient or outpatient treatment program, FHE Health can help. Our team is available to take your call 24/7. Contact us today to learn more or receive immediate assistance from our trained caregivers.