Soil is the basis of many things. It’s a home to a whole ecosystem hiding from our eyes. Ants and termites, earthworms, beetles, all kinds of organisms live, burrow tunnels, and provide nutrients and minerals in the soil. We walk upon the soil. We grow food and beautiful flora in the soil. We miss the soil when we’re in the air for too long…and the science? Soil makes us happy.
Gardening as a hobby doesn’t mean you’re growing flowers, vegetables, and fruits, or helping the ecosystem by bringing native plants to your home. Gardening also means that you are mentally taking care of yourself. Many residential senior living areas and rehabilitation centers already use horticulture in their programs, seeing an improved mental health within individuals.
The activity itself is therapeutic, and it also lies directly in the soil that we touch. When you played in the soil as a kid, or preparing your garden now, these microbes in the soils that we inhale stimulate serotonin production. Serotonin is a hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness, flowing through your brain cells and other nervous system cells. Additionally, it helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion. (Bancos, 2018) Now what if your kids don’t like getting dirty, or they are afraid of touching what’s beneath the soil? (don’t worry, I’ve been there!) All the encouragement helps…take it one step at a time- try coming up with a fun game or some pretend play!
Soil is like a natural remedy or medicine for our minds. But speaking of medicine, there is another reason why soil and gardening does us wonders. By getting messy with soil, even those kids who somehow ingested some of the soil, (I’m not telling you to eat soil. Please don’t pick up a random pile of soil just to eat it!) you will likely be healthier! During your childhood, playing in the dirt/soil/mud (any of those!) will benefit your heart, your skin, and your immune system. They will be thankful as you grow older! In a research conducted for over two decades, researchers concluded that when children are exposed to germs and pathogens during infancy, then their risk of cardiovascular inflammation in adulthood, which can be a precursor to heart attacks and strokes, is reduced. (Channick, 2010). So yes, there are bad germs, and there are GOOD germs!
At the University of California School of Medicine, researchers found a common bacterial species that lives on skin, Staphylococci. This bacteria triggers a pathway to help prevent inflammation and improve the skin’s ability to heal. (BBC News, 2009). “The typical human probably harbors some 90 trillion microbes. The very fact that you have so many microbes of so many different kinds is what keeps you healthy most of the time.” (Dr. Mary Ruebush, immunologist and author of Why Dirt is Good: 5 Ways to Make Germs Your Friends.)
Finally, just get out there- you’ll be reconnected with the environment around you. Maybe you’ll learn something new, pick up a new hobby, go on an Urban-Eco Wonderwalk, or simply feel great! Remember that one quote LandHealth has repeatedly said? I hope you do!
“Put Nature Back. Restore Connections."
Tenenbaum, Laura. “Digging In The Dirt Really Does Make People Happier.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 29 Jan. 2020, 18:23, www.forbes.com/sites/lauratenenbaum/2020/01/29/digging-in-the-dirt-really-does-make-people-happier/?sh=335ea23131e1.
Hormone Health Network."Serotonin | Hormone Health Network." Hormone.org, Endocrine Society, 19 December 2021, https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/serotonin
The Dirt on Dirt. National Wildlife Federation, 2012, https://www.nwf.org/~/media/PDFs/Be%20Out%20There/Dirt_Report_2012.ashx.