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  • Writer's pictureRifke Hill

Nature’s Gift: How Contact with Soil Can Improve Your Mental Health

Scientists in the UK have made a fascinating find: certain bacteria living in soil may make us happier.

These soil-dwelling bacteria (Mycobacterium vaccae) are pretty common, and they could stimulate your brain to release serotonin – in a similar way to Prozac, or other antidepressants.

Serotonin is your body’s natural happiness chemical. It performs so many vital functions: it regulates your mood, sex drive, social interactions, appetite, digestion, sleep and memory. Low levels of serotonin can give rise to a epidemic of misery in our daily lives, causing poor memory, depression, unhealthy cravings, insomnia, low self-esteem, anxiety and aggression. It has a deeply influencing touch on our psyche, who we are as individuals.

Apparently, Mycobacterium vaccae can stimulate your brain and your gut to produce more serotonin. On top of that, it can boost your immune system and possibly even make you smarter!

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So how can you make sure you and your loved ones are getting in as much of this marvelous little miracle worker as possible?

1. Plant an eco garden.

Organic gardening techniques will get you in touch with the soil. Your hands will get wonderfully dirty, and you’ll breathe in the fresh fragrance of soil. One way or another, Mycobacterium vaccae will find its way into your system.

The other reward of sustainable gardening is that it benefits the environment by reducing environmental pollution and your carbon footprint. And you get to tuck into the bountiful harvests of fresh-from-today, organically grown food!

Soil Improve Your Mental Health - Plant an eco garden

2. Or, plant an indoor garden.

If you don’t have space for an outdoor veggie patch, you can still reap the benefits by gardening indoors. Stock up on some plant pots (we like biodegradable plant pots, or long-lasting ceramic, terracotta or clay pots), and get elbows-deep in some fresh soil while planting seeds indoors.

Soil Improve Your Mental Health - Plant an Indoor Garden

3. Let your feet get dirty.

In the garden, free your feet from your shoes and revel in the sensations of soil and grass. Healthy bacterium that get on your skin will have a good chance of finding their way into your system.

Soil Improve Your Mental Health - Let your feet get dirty

4. Let your kids play in the soil.

No encouragement needed here, right? Not for them, at least! Leave a patch of soil bare in their natural play space and let them go wild in it when they’re enjoying outdoor play time.

Soil Improve Your Mental Health - Let your kids play in the soil

When the day is done, fill up the bathtub and let them splash and soak together (eco friendly households, you’re onto this water-saving idea already). Practical moms, I hear your concerns. Deworm your kids every six months to get rid of any harmful parasites (it’s a good idea whether or not they often play in the soil) and they’ll stay happy and healthy.

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Today, allow yourself a moment of awe and gratitude towards this magical world that we live in, towards its intricacies and all the yet-to-be uncovered mysteries. The future of its wonders lies in our hands. Let’s be encouraged in our efforts to be responsible with what we’ve been given: we’re making a difference.

Written by Rifke Hill


About the Author

Rifke Hill was raised on the sort of farm your grandparents told tales about – milking cows, gathering eggs, hoeing the soil, and building fires to heat water. She now spends part of her time copywriting online as a freelancer. The rest of it is spent nurturing and teaching her four energetic children, growing vegetables, baking bread, reading voraciously, having coffee with the neighbors, and enjoying the sunny slopes of the smallholding where she lives, in the Garden Route, South Africa.

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