The Science of Happy Gardening

By Dr. Judy Soborowicz

Hard to imagine anyone who is not absolutely grateful for the beautiful beginning to spring in Wisconsin! While spending as much time as life will possibly allow outside in the sun and fresh air, a recent study about soil has me eager to dig into the dirt.  As if we don’t already know how good digging in the dirt feels, the exquisite feeling of sun-warmed black dirt pushing through bare toes is truly hard to beat. As it turns out, there exists a friendly bacteria within soil that acts to promote our brains’ production of natural antidepressants.

According to researchers at Bristol University and  University College in London, our brains are activated to release, and increase efficiency of, the use of our natural serotonin when we are exposed to specific bacteria found in soil. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness, along with regulation of mood, appetite, sleep learning, and memory. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, aggression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar, IBS, and fibromyalgia.

Apart from how this neurotransmitter affects the brain, it also helps regulate digestive enzymes and helps to control the movement of food and waste through our gut. Because our gut health is a primary player in immune function, this study is a hint as to why immune function so greatly affects our mood.

How fascinating to consider our brain is set up to feel pleasure gardening, which in many ways, over time, has greatly contributed to our success and survival. Perhaps the positive feeling we get from digging in the soil is a part of what has increased the odds of our enjoying a delicious and bountiful harvest. Research has shown it, many of us have experienced it, digging and planting generously promotes well-being.

Judy Soborowicz practices chiropractic and nutrition at Active Health Chiropractic along with her husband John.  She enjoys writing, researching and lecturing on topics concerning chiropractic, healthcare and experience gained along the way.

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