It seems crazy that soil bacteria can increase serotonin levels. Dirt! We, as a society, are less exposed to dirt and the garden soil than we were 50 years ago. Our children and homes are hyper clean. How many of our kids make mud pies anymore? We, ourselves, are hyper clean using hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial soap to protect us. We have a fear of bacteria, though many bacteria are highly beneficial to us.
Lawn services are everywhere taking care of our lawns. We have lost that contact with our garden soil. Many of us have potted plants and do indoor gardening. A lot of potting soil is sterile so we lose that exposure to living bacteria in the soil. On the positive side I do believe that more people are interested in growing their own vegetables. This trend of backyard vegetable and flower gardening is growing.
Now here is another reason for getting out there and digging in the dirt and making mud pies! New research is showing that a particular bacteria, Mycobacterium Vaccae, in garden soil can increase serotonin levels and improve learning. Naomi Sachs has an excellent, detailed discussion of this research and how it came about on her blog: Bacteria in the Dirt Can Make us Happier and Smarter.
This gives us another plus for creating our backyard vegetable or front yard flower gardens. It also gives us a great reason for letting our children play in the dirt. There are so many advantages to gardening ourselves instead of hiring landscaping companies to do it for us. Gardening gives us:
- a meditative experience
- a sense of accomplishment
- beautiful flowers and landscapes
- fresh, tasty, nutritious vegetables
- saves money
- reduces stress
Now there is evidence of the bacteria in the soil providing us with an increase in serotonin levels. Mycobacterium vaccae is just one of the numerous bacteria in the soil. I am sure there are other advantages that soil bacteria provide that haven’t been discovered yet.