Stress Awareness Month - why dirt is good for you | Turf Online Knowledge Base

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Stress Awareness Month – why dirt is good for you

Over nearly three decades of being around children (as a mum of three, a guider and a granny to two outdoorsy boys), I have noticed that the “clean kids” at school seem to be more vulnerable to coughs, colds and tummy upsets.  Why? I didn’t know, until I started learning about soil science.

One of the healthiest children I know – he just can resist soil, water and outdoor play

Soil aka dirt is teeming with microbes…and contrary to popular belief, most of them are either harmless or helpful to humans.  In fact, thinking instinctively, whilst I’m happy to pick an apple off the ground, wipe it on my shirt and eat it;  I would NEVER go to my disinfected fridge, take out a piece of raw meat and eat that.

Allegedly, 21st Century humans live better and healthier lives than their ancestors but I can’t help wondering if, as we lose contact with nature, our lives are becoming more stressful.

Is dirt a stress buster?

Gardeners have long reported that being outside, digging, planting and weeding tends to lift a grey mood.  I love gardening and I absolutely concur that it’s a great way to ease the symptoms of mild depression.

But guess what?  Scientists have found a bacteria in soil that actually boosts the body’s production of serotonin.   Low levels of serotonin, the “happy hormone” are connected with depression.

Mud, glorious mud!

The antidepressant qualities of this bug, Mycobacterium vaccae were discovered purely by accident – as so many important scientific breakthroughs are – by Mary O’Brien at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.  She was actually looking for a treatment for lung cancer but found that patients treated with this bacteria not only showed few cancer symptoms but also felt more energetic, less stressed and more able to focus their minds.

Awesome – maybe that’s why some of my best ideas come to me while I’m working in the garden?

Scientific proof then, that soil is a stress buster – now go outside and get dirty.