In a article titled “Is Dirt the New Prozac?“, Discover Magazine summarizes for us non-scientists a research study headed by Dr, Christopher Lowery, that may explain it feels so GOOD to work in the garden. My post title aside, being outside may not be a true cure for depression, but apparently it helps. The study showed a common soil bacterium, that we inhale when digging in the dirt, activates the serotonin releasing neurons in our brain. I always knew that I felt great when outdoors and active, now I know why! I seems you can get a healthy, (literally), dose of Mycobacterium vaccae when hiking, gardening, or taking part in almost any outdoor activity that involves kicking up a little dirt.
The article goes on to discuss how the discovery could add to our knowledge of the biological causes of depression, asthma, and inflammatory disorders in general. I had the thought that our positive biological response to this organism may be coded into our bodies as a means of survival. Back when most people grew and harvested their own food, there would have been a real survival benefit for people who worked the earth. I have often joked that I have the “farmer gene”. Now I wonder is some of us are indeed
I would take the time to further summarize the findings of the study, but I really need to get started on some overdue weeding in the vegetable garden.