Gardening makes people happy. It brings joy. And now science proves it.
Gardening Makes You Happy – Science Proves It
I’m a little biased. I made a magnet for my refrigerator that says, “My garden is my happy place” and I mean every single word of it. I’m happiest when I’m outside, but I’m ecstatic when I get to garden for a few hours each day. The soil, the sun, the birds, the flowers, the bees…it just makes my soul sing.
So I wasn’t surprised to see a headline on my Facebook feed this week about gardening making you happy – and science proving it. The science? A little soil bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae activates serotonin-releasing neurons in the brain. That means more serotonin circulating among the neurons, and more for them to pick up and use where needed. Happy bacteria! Healthy bacteria! Dirt is good for you!
Some of the fascinating results of the study cited in the article in Discovery Magazine include:
- Inhaling m.vaccae gets it into your system.
- You can inhale it by walking through the woods, gardening, or playing outside.
- Tests indicate the bacterium eases depression, anxiety, and inflammation.
The original research citation: University of Bristol
What I find amusing is the reactions and comments under articles about the study. “Eew! Gross!” people write – as if their bodies are completely sterile areas.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that your body is teeming with bacteria. It colonizes your skin, your organs, your intestines. Without it, you would die. Yes, you read that right. Some bacteria help you digest your food; others keep you healthy!
I’m not surprised that scientists have identified a mood-enhancing bacteria lurking in the soil. A quick walk in the woods nearly always makes me happy, and gardening? One day playing in the dirt is as good as a present to boost my mood.
Here’s to bacteria! Go good bugs!
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.