January 17, 2010

Get Dirty, Feel Better: Anxiety and Depression Would Rather Be Superclean

Just getting back into the swing of posting this year, and I came across a mention of dirt that can make people happy.

Yes, gardeners, you’ve always known it was true! No wonder children love getting dirty so much.

An article in the December/January issue of The Economist — “The Joy of Dirt” — mentioned a study at Bristol University showing that certain bacteria found in soil stimulate neurons in the brain that produce serotonin. Dig into the subject a bit further if you like in the Discover Magazine article “Is Dirt the New Prozaz?

Remember the last time you took a good walk? Cast your mind back to your experience of it: Fresh air invigorating the mind and refreshing the skin… the rhythmic motion of every step creating greater blood flow and filling every cell of  your body with goodness. A good walk produces a clarity of thought that’s hardly accessible any other way.

When did you take that last, good walk?

Put a Little Dirt in Your Life

How much time do you spend indoors? Granted, it’s the dead of winter and frigid in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Who wants to get out for a nice stroll when the thermometer drops below freezing? Could our tendency to remain indoors in the winter months contribute to a greater sense of depression simply because we aren’t getting enough dirt in our lives?

Oh, there’s much more to seasonal-affective disorder than lower levels of light. We’re less active overall. We hole up in our dens and offices too much, and we suffer for the lack of activity and interaction with the world. Yes, and our bodies miss the connection with the great outdoors.

Bring a Little Life into Your Home

One little thing you might consider doing this week is to bring a new plant into your home. Pick up some potting soil and a beautiful pot, then get your hands a little dirty and move the plant into that new pot and the fresh soil. Let the dirt get up under your fingernails. Smell that little bit of earthiness and watch your spirits lift.

It’s funny how simple things can cause a shift that puts us into a new and better frame of mind.

Perhaps you’ll even plant the seeds for a new project that grows and bears wonderful fruit against the so-called dead of winter. Marvelous!

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