12 Jun Get Dirty. Get Happy.
I garden. Sometimes. When I do, I enjoy it. Every single time. I’ve been really aware of it lately because I’ve been outside in my yard a lot. I’d been feeling in a consistently good mood and finally made the connection. Outside, diggin’ in the dirt a few times a week makes for a happier me.
So why don’t I get outside in the garden with more regularity? Because I’m human and I get busy. I get caught up and distracted by things I need to do and things that I want to do. Like binge-watch a series on Netflix. I enjoy it. Sometimes. Other times I regret a wasted day and feel a little depressed. It isn’t consistent the way working/playing outside in the yard is for me.
Why? Science. It turns out that the common sense of our 8-year-old behavior was on to something. Getting dirty makes us happy as does growing fruits and vegetables.
The Science of Gardening & Happiness:
- Mycobacterium vaccae found in soil causes certain protein levels to rise in our cells which results in the production of higher levels of serotonin which acts much like a natural anti-depressant.
- Thanks to evolution which wanted to reward us for growing food, we get a hit of dopamine to the reward center in our brain when we see a newly harvested fruits or vegetables. This can cause feelings of bliss and euphoria.
- There is evidence to suggest that #2 and #3 work better with organic gardening. Lay off the Round-Up.
- Exposure to sunlight boosts serotonin levels which raises mood and increases focus; essentially more natural anti-depressant to the system.
Play in the dirt. Pull a few weeds, plant flowers, and put in a few veggies. No yard? No problem. Do some container gardening. You just need some dirt and a few pots. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Your joy will increase and that’s a sure thing. I can’t guarantee the newest Netflix series.
Kate Murphy, LMSW
Kate Murphy, a therapist in Berkeley Lake, specializes in helping you decrease stress and anxiety. You can live a more balanced, connected, and meaningful life. Kate works with individuals and couples over the age of 18 to support healing, communicating, and experiencing joy more often.