Those of us who are more intimate with nature have long known that we walk away from a gardening session with a wider smile….but now, science is backing it up: a bacterium found in soil, “Mycobacterium vaccae,” has been found to affect the brain in a similar way as common antidepressants would. Yes, gardening really is the new Prozac!
According to a study in the online journal Neuroscience, contact with this microbe activates the release of serotonin. This boosts our happiness levels and lowers stress. On top of that, serotonin is also responsible for increasing cognitive ability, regulating digestion, and improving concentration. Even more exciting, the neurons that are activated when we have contact with this microbe are also related to our immunities. This suggests a very close connection between our immune systems and emotional health. Woohoo! More reasons to go play outside.
As humans, we have a microbiome in our gut. It is responsible for our moods, our immune systems, and even how attractive we are to mosquitos. The healthier that community is in your gut, the healthier our bodies are overall. Our gardens and landscapes also have a natural microbiome, and when we allow it to mingle with our own, the benefits are incredible! In general, more contact with the outside world means a stronger gut microbiome. Many of us have a less-than-ideal microbiome due to heavier use of antibiotics, less time outside, and ultra sterile home and work environments.
Access this natural antidepressant by gardening, taking a stroll through the forest or neighborhood park, eating freshly plucked veggies from the garden, or even just taking a moment to inhale deeply during your outside time. We can all enjoy this health boost because mycobacteria are ubiquitous. They occur everywhere in the world except for polar regions. Studies also show that allergies to pollen or dog hair can be decreased because this bacteria is shown to lower the inflammatory allergic response, and in turn, alleviate depression.
Who knows? Perhaps this microbe will be used to treat depression and other issues down the road. In the meantime, enjoy an all-access pass to the great outdoors and watch your smile grow right alongside your daffodils!
Until next thyme~
My Thyme Gardens