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Friday, March 6, 2015

The Happy Gardener: Beating the Blues with a Green Thumb

Talk to some gardeners, and they may tell you how time with their plants eases stress and lifts their mood. Even if gardening isn't a strong suit, having plants around seems to improve people's mental well-being. Whether your gardening thumb is green or black, or somewhere in between, many of us like being around plants.

But wait! Did you know? There is actually science that backs this up!

Psst... Finally, a reason to play in the dirt!
Credit: Sofi Martinez

A prescription may not be the only way to get rid of the blues. Soil microbes have been found to have similar effects on the brain as antidepressants but are without the potential side effects and chemical dependency risk.

The bacterium in soil responsible for its natural antidepressant properties is called Mycobacterium vaccae. It effects neurons in similar ways to drugs and may actually stimulate serotonin production, making you more relaxed and happier.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affect mood balance and social behaviour, sleep, memory, and reproduction. An imbalance of this chemical has also been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder.

Credit: Magnolia Lim

When we come into contact with soil, the microbes cause cytokine levels to rise and stimulate production of serotonin. Gardeners might inhale the bacteria, have skin contact with it, or accidentally get soil in a cut.

But hey, what's this all mean? The science aside, short of rolling in soil -- which, although funny, may be rather impractical, honestly -- we can all benefit from some heart-to-heart time with our plants, whether in a full-fledged garden or with that little fern on our office desk. So, this spring, do your body some good and flex that gardening thumb of yours!

(Source: Gardening Know How)

The information provided in this article is for general use only; it does not represent medical or health advice nor substitute for advice or diagnosis from a qualified healthcare professional. If you feel that you or someone else may require medical advice, please consult a qualified professional. Always consult a physician or mental health professional before making decisions regarding treatment of yourself or others or considering changes in your schedule of treatment.

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