Thursday, January 5, 2012

Research Shows: Getting Down and Dirty Makes You Happy

As gardeners, we all KNOW that gardening makes us happy. But new research helps to explain why. Apparently, digging in the dirt actually releases “happy chemicals” in our brains.

Here are some excerpts from an article entitled Why Gardening Makes You Happy and Cures Depression by Robyn Francis on the Permaculture College Australia website which provides scientific evidence that getting down and dirty is good for the soul….and the immune system.
Getting down and dirty is the best ‘upper’ – Serotonin : Getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levels – contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain according to research. Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system. Lack of serotonin in the brain causes depression. 

Harvest 'High' – Dopamine: Another interesting bit of research relates to the release of dopamine in the brain when we harvest products from the garden. The researchers hypothesize that this response evolved over nearly 200,000 years of hunter gathering, that when food was found (gathered or hunted) a flush of dopamine released in the reward centre of brain triggered a state of bliss or mild euphoria. The dopamine release can be triggered by sight (seeing a fruit or berry) and smell as well as by the action of actually plucking the fruit.
Francis goes on to say that using glyphosate herbicides can take away all of those happy feelings.
Glyphosate residues deplete your Serotonin and Dopamine levels
Of course, for all of the above to work effectively and maintain those happy levels of serotonin and dopamine, there’s another prerequisite according to another interesting bit of research I found.  It appears it will all work much better with organic soil and crops that haven’t been contaminated with Glyphosate-based herbicides. A recent study in 2008 discovered that glyphosate depletes serotonin and dopamine levels in mammals. 
I guess all of this explains why seeing my husband work in his organic garden was such a turn-on for me when we first met. And why I still think working side by side with someone in a garden can be such a fun, pleasurable experience.

So next time you are feeling a little bit down, I encourage you to go outside and get dirty with a friend. But to keep those brain chemicals pumping, keep things chemical free.

You can read the full article by Robin Francis here: Why Gardening Makes You Happy and Cures Depression

You might also enjoy reading: The Psychology of Green Gardening

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