NOTE: I began this article just before COVID-19 became a global crisis, shutting down travel industries, then local gatherings and even restaurants and bars. I am not health professional or scientist, but my second brain screams loudly that in the midst of a global pandemic, outside is exactly where we need to be. You can still connect with neighbors, get those really good microbes under your fingernails and possibly even. . . grow some food! It’s great for your mental health!
Depression has been called a global epidemic. Despite the ability to be constantly ‘connected’ via social media in our hands at all times, many people report feeling isolated and depressed. A way to combat that is becoming increasingly popular across the globe ~ growing and harvesting your own food.
This article even suggests that “dirt-deficiency in childhood. . . contributes to illnesses including allergies, asthma and mental disorders”. It goes on to say the act of planting and using hands directly in soil releases serotonin. Harvesting fruits, veggies or flowers you’ve grown is a great source of dopamine. Both brain chemicals are the source of all the good feelings!
For many years, researchers and mental health professionals have been suggesting that soil bacteria can act as anti-depressant. On the other hand, serotonin deficiency is linked with anxiety, bipolar disorder, fibromyalgia and even irritable bowel syndrome.
One of the functions of serotonin is to help food make it through the gut. Our second brain does reside there, after all. There are innumerable resources for enforcing how closely our brains and bellies are connected.
The reason for all this dirt equals happiness stuff is a little bacteria known as mycobacterium vaccae or M.Vaccae for short. This article from sciencealert.com suggests that it could have been a micro-organism humans were once very connected with, and the more we become disconnected from nature, the more allergies and autoimmune diseases show up in our bodies. For the very science-y and abstract information on M. Vaccae, read here.
Maybe Richard Louv was correct when he suggested all humans suffer from ‘nature-deficit disorder’. So, adults and children alike really should ‘play in the dirt’ and just wash up with normal soap and water. When it’s time to clean up. Skip the anti-bacterial soaps. The microbes in dirt are healthy, bacteria and they are proven to keep us happy too.
So, get out there. Nature truly nurtures best!