Gardening has long been a way to reduce stress and feel better about oneself, but lately it’s also been used to help people in recovery cope with their feelings and learn better, healthier practices. Because gardening is such good exercise–and because daily exercise is a big part of helping individuals in recovery feel better–it’s a great activity that can be done either alone or with others.

Not only does the physical act of gardening help promote a healthier lifestyle, but depending on what you plant, you could reap the benefits of your harvest as well. Invest in fruits and veggies that you enjoy and plan out a garden design that will allow the area to get all the sun it needs.

Here are a few of the best ways gardening can help you during recovery.

It provides a break from the monotony

You’ve probably already heard from doctors and counselors that exercise is a key factor in recovery, but doing the same old workout every day can get really boring. Gardening is a different way to get in some exercise and allows you to work outside, get some fresh air, and move a variety of different muscle groups. It can help with arthritis and other joint concerns and can also boost your mood.

It helps with depression

Many people in recovery battle depression every day, so it’s important to find ways to ease those feelings. Gardening has been shown in many studies to reduce stress and anxiety, ease depression, and help boost self-esteem. Not only that, but serious gardeners who see an improvement in their physical and mental health also sleep better and are at a reduced risk for relapse.

It gives you a serious shot of sunshine

Vitamin D has been shown to boost the immune system, which can be very helpful for those in recovery after a lengthy period of drug or alcohol abuse. It can also make you feel better in general and promote a healthy self-image.

It can raise your outlook

Tending a garden can give you a sense of purpose and help you gain a positive outlook on life when you’re able to reap the benefits of your own hard work. Because many people in recovery feel a sense of shame in connection to their addiction, it’s important to find hobbies that help you feel control and pride.

It can help you get healthy

Planting fruits and vegetables means you get to eat the rewards, so choose foods you love and plan lots of different meals around them. You can look on Pinterest for new ideas and create meals to freeze for the week rather than eating fast food at work or during long, busy days.

It can help you get social

Gardening doesn’t have to be done alone; if you have friends who are interested, start a gardening club, or check to see if there’s a community garden in your area. Finding like-minded individuals to work with in the dirt can help you get social and make new connections, which is an important part of recovery.

It can help you focus

Many individuals in recovery find that meditation is a wonderful addition to their mental health toolkit, and gardening is a fun way to incorporate that into your day. Working with plants is a calm, relaxing job, meaning focused thinking and meditation are that much easier to achieve.

It’s important to remember that recovery is a lifelong process, and that you may not see results overnight. Gardening can be a great way to work on it, however, and it allows you to be creative at the same time.