Humming softly; without a care in the world—a found feeling of peace and comfort in my garden. I’ve never questioned or quite understood why and how gardening could stir such a positive sense of wellbeing.
After doing some research, I discovered there’s a lot of science behind how good we feel when we garden.
Mood lighteners in the soil
Physical contact with a microbe called Mycobacterium vaccae (a natural antidepressant) in soil has proven to stimulate serotonin production. This chemical is stored in the brain and when released, it lightens mood and anxiety, improving mental health and quality of life.
Nutritious food production makes us happy too
Research also links healthy soil with human health and wellness. Healthy productive soil contains 5% organic matter (composed of decaying plant debris and living microorganisms), 45% minerals (weathered-aggregate rock), water, and air. This component is crucial in healthy soil and vital to plant growth and has been directly linked to the benefits of nutritional value in food production too. So the fact that we’re working in soil that will bring us the goodness of healthy food is bound to make us happy as we work away in our gardens.
Immunity in the soil?
Did you know that soil is alive and may help build immunity? A teaspoon or 1 gram of rich garden soil can hold up to one billion bacteria, several yards of fungal filaments, several thousand protozoa, and scores of nematodes. These beneficial soil components may contribute to our immunity according to a study titled “The Farm Effect”. It confirms that children exposed to the microbes and bacteria in soil have notably improved immune systems. This boost in resiliency could be the secret to living healthier and happier lives.
A Workout, not in the gym but in the fresh air and sunshine!
In our gardens, we bend, reach, walk, dig, and generally do a lot of movements that are very good for our bodies. As long as we don’t overdo it, spending time in the garden means no need to do a workout at the gym – and that makes me very happy!
Bottom line – There is science behind how good we feel in the garden!
It’s not our imaginations. There’s some science behind how good we feel in the garden. So go ahead and get dirty!
“Land is not merely soil, it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals.”
~ Aldo Leopold, author, philosopher, scientist, and conservationist
Halton Master Gardeners – The Connection Between Nature and Health
References and additional reading:
Dirt Therapy: Can Soil Make You Happy? Sue Kusch
Antidepressant Microbes In Soil: How Dirt Makes You Happy Bonnie L. Grant
Happy Gardeners? It’s in the Soil Canada’s Local Gardening Magazine
The Farm Effect: How Dirt Makes You Happy and Healthy Christiane Northrup, M.D.