Scientists have discovered that mycobacteria found in soil can improve brain functions while increasing moods. Mycobacterium vaccae found in soil increases serotonin produced in the brain (also known as the “happy chemical”). Really? Many of our more than 500 volunteers in the garden have told me that they consider their weekly volunteer gardening work with their fellow volunteers to be their “free therapy”. Of course, they're joking, but besides, they're not.
There's something magical about contributing to the community you care about. And apparently, there's also something very magical about cultivating and reaping your rewards. I suppose there are many factors, including the endorphins you get from exercising while working in the garden, that contribute to the good feelings you get when you do it. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain.
It is associated with pleasure and reward. Spending time in the garden and taking care of flowers and vegetables can certainly add a touch of happiness. The brain can release dopamine by seeing ripe fruit, blooming flowers, or harvesting herbs. Digging in the dirt really lifts your spirits.
Excavation awakens microbes in the ground. Breathing in these microbes can stimulate serotonin production, which can make you feel relaxed and happy. Science has confirmed that just looking at flowers or other organic products or picking herbs stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain. Serotonin is one of two chemicals that keep us happy.
The other is dopamine, which affects our emotions. Picking our own fruits and vegetables has been shown to release dopamine in the brain, triggering a mild sense of euphoria and happiness. This is the natural path of reward that kept our hunter-gatherer ancestors alert, but which today is blamed on modern addictions, such as compulsive shopping or our obsessions with social media. Gardening, on the other hand, is a much healthier “addiction”, one that relies on mental and physical health rather than detracting from it.
Perhaps, as a long-term gardener, I have been getting a steady high of baseload dopamine, which has reduced the need to look for other ways to appease this primal instinct. Multigenerational families benefit most from gardening, where the results are strongest when younger children participate. She has been known for taking a walk in the Garden and coming back with hundreds of photos of plants, fully inspired to write her next blog post. Whether you spend time maintaining a home or community garden, which is an allowance that individuals or groups can rent to participate in gardening.
At least now I have a new idea of why I compulsively garden without gloves and I have always loved the feeling of sticking my own hands in the soil and compost heap. Your garden isn't just a space for growing plants, it's a convenient place to enjoy nature and improve your mood and self-esteem. Gardening can be a great way to get some fresh air and exercise while spending time with family and friends. However, I must admit, with the benefit of hindsight, I now have another perspective on my occasional “shopping” in local markets, buying plants for the garden.
So enjoy the garden, fresh organic food and make sure you have fun playing in the dirt on a regular basis. I love everything related to permaculture: I have lived, taught and designed it since 1983, founded Djanbung Gardens 1994, I love to share the inspiration and emotion of people “receiving” it and feeling empowered to make a difference in the world. Gardeners must embrace a change of perspective that commits to a slower but ultimately more satisfying way of doing things. Spending time in your garden after a hard day at the office is a powerful strategy to be happier, have less stress and enjoy greater productivity.
I guess I always thought that this transformative effect that my gardening had on me had more to do with “flow” and being out of nature, rather than with a complex algorithm of factors such as dirt %26 bacteria. . .