Playing in the dirt always makes me happy. I’ve taken pleasure from gardening my entire life. What I never knew, and apparently we are just finding out, is that the mere act of putting your hands in the soil can be as powerful as an antidepressant!
One of my Facebook connections recently shared this article, entitled Why Gardening Makes You Happy and Cures Depression. Author Robyn Francis is an international permaculture designer, educator, writer and pioneer based at Djanbung Gardens, Nimbin Northern NSW. She is principal of Permaculture College Australia.
Getting down and dirty is the best ‘upper’ – Serotonin
Getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levels – contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain according to research. Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system. Lack of serotonin in the brain causes depression.
Ironically, in the face of our hyper-hygienic, germicidal, protective clothing, obsessive health-and-safety society, there’s been a lot of interesting research emerging in recent years regarding how good dirt is for us, and dirt-deficiency in childhood is implicated in contributing to quite a spectrum of illnesses including allergies, asthma and mental disorders.
At least now I have a new insight into why I compulsively garden without gloves and have always loved the feeling of getting my bare hands into the dirt and compost heap.
Conversely, she points out that soil contaminated with Roundup or Glyphosate-based herbicides depletes serotonin and dopamine levels in mammals. Yet another reason to grow and eat organically.
I’ve read her article three times and I’m still fascinated. You can read the full article and the supporting research on the Permaculture Australia website.