by: Rita Duponty
Is there a link between ordinary dirt and happiness? For years, parents have have taught their children not to play in dirt. As children, some of us were told to stay out of the dirt or we would get sick. The truth is that dirt may actually be good for all us.
Researchers found that when mice were exposed to certain “friendly bacteria” found in soil, their brain’s showed elevated levels of serotonin. No doubt you will recall that low levels of serotonin in the human brain are linked to depression. So what does this mean for you? Although more studies and research are underway to determine just how much antidepressant properties there are in dirt and its effect on the serotonin neurons in the brain, getting down in the dirt with the kids is a smart thing to do!
Spring is almost here for many of us. Now is the perfect time to sink our hands down into some type of soil or dirt. Since most of us are under time restraints these days, here are a few suggestions on how you can get into the real “dirt.”
- For a smaller project, start an herb garden. You and the kids can plant a few herbs in the kitchen perhaps in a small planter. Once it is warm enough you can plant herbs in pots on your porch or patio. The best exposure to dirt though and soil would be to plant an herb garden outside in the yard. You don’t need a lot of space. Some people have planted herbs on the top of their roof! In all cases you will be working with soil.
- Plant some of your favorite flowers in pots inside or outside. Plant flowers around your yard.
- Take a small area of your yard and start a vegetable garden. If you don’t know how to get started, go to Vegetable Garden—Your Family’s Golden Nugget. You’ll find links to organic gardening and some free tips along with a link to what Michelle Obama did to start her successful White House Garden.
- Community Gardening. Some areas rent out small lots for gardening. Look around your community for such an area. You might even have a friend that would love you to plant vegetables or flowers on their property.
- Volunteer to help someone else to start their garden.
In all of the above scenarios, you and the kids will be exposed to dirt. Interestingly, all the Blue Zones (concentrations of centenarians) in the world, people are actively involved in outside activities such as gardening. So if you want a happy family with longevity, start digging and planting today. Yes—get those hands dirty!