Don’t Worry, Garden and Be Happy!
In the past, researchers knew that spending time outdoors in the fresh air helped to improve the mood - but they did not know how or why.
But now (through their research) they have confirmed that the antidepressant microbes in the soil have a beneficial effect on the way the body manages serotonin, even providing a more natural way to treat depression.
Antidepressant microbes in the soil
What can you do if you are feeling blue and you want to improve your mood quickly?
One way in which your body determines your behavior involves your brain stem – this contains unique nerves called serotonergic systems, designed to transport the neurotransmitter serotonin.
The common bacteria found in soil (and called Mycobacterium vaccae or M. vaccae) activates these neurons in a specific region of the stem. When this happens, an increase in serotonin metabolism (in a region of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) is directly stimulated. This area of your mind controls your fear response and will help to get rid of conditioned fear.
How soil makes you happy
For M. vaccae to work its magic, you need to expose yourself to it.
And the word bacteria is nothing to be afraid of. Some of these microbes, like many in your intestines, perform beneficial immune functions - as well as improve your mood.
Five ways to enjoy the microbes from the soil
- Gardening is the easiest way – whether your garden is large or tiny. Gardening comes with responsibility too. Caring for something other than yourself can be hard work but gratifying and purposeful. In addition, all that hard work you put into your garden will eventually supply you with some of the tastiest fruit and vegetables.
- Composting is another way. Learn to make a compost bin with your organic food scraps and other waste material. It is worth the effort for the nutrient-rich soil you will reap at the end.
- Even if your outside space is only a patio or balcony, think about how you can improve the area by adding plants to boost your mood. If you can get hold of relatively large planters, you can even grow veggies like beets, carrots, potatoes, kale, tomatoes and much more.
- Go and spend time in your local park, on the beach or even in a woodland area. All of these places especially if you paddle and splash in the ocean, walk barefoot on the sand or even potter around in the woods giving your hands the opportunity of working the soil, will reap benefits for your health.
- Making the most of the sunlight. Whether you have a garden, a patio, a balcony or can get out in the sunshine and the open air, ensure you actually lie down on the ground and have a sunbathing session for up to twenty minutes or until the skin starts to turn pink. Your body will get the grounding benefits from being on the land while at the same time, you will be close enough to inhale any antidepressant microbes from the soil beneath you. At the same time, if you wear the minimum amount of clothing, you will be topping up your vitamin D levels.
And a final word
My favorite gardener (TV presenter) here in the UK is Monty Don.
“Life is short and absurd and run through with pain and sorrow. But even in the face of real suffering, gardening can make our days shine with joy.
When you are sad, a garden comforts.
When you are humiliated or defeated, a garden consoles.
When you are lonely, it offers companionship that is true and lasting.
When you are weary, your garden will soothe and refresh you.”