Dirt and Mental Health
I know that depression and stress can be debilitating, but it can also be managed. I’ve been that person who couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t enter a store because of a panic attack, and had two scenarios for suicide. With the help of a therapist, I’ve recovered. When depression tries to sneak back, I have ways to fight it off.
May is mental health month and gardening has proven to be effective at lessening stress and depression.
Studies have shown that working in dirt releases a microbiome called myobacterium vaccae which reduces the feelings of stress. Studies go on to explain how and why this happens. I don’t care. All I know is that it works.
The days when I’m feeling stressed, I get outside and start digging and turn over my garden with a shovel. Weeding allows me to bend and yank and pull, concentrating on what’s right in front of me. If I’m really, really stressed, I get out the loppers. When I’m reducing that shrub by one half to two thirds, my stress is reduced, too.
Days when I’m feeling more overwhelmed, I can only plant a container and that gives me the opportunity to become creative. Walking through a garden center, surrounded by all that green, choosing annuals with colors that appeal to me, brings me a sense of serenity.
Some days all I can do is look at my garden through my kitchen window. I’ve been around long enough to know that the inability to move will pass.
For me, there’s something spiritual about being in the garden. Whether it’s the awareness of the renewal of the seasons or the magic of watching something grow, I don’t know. I don’t care. I only know that it works.
For those of you who don’t garden at all, my friend Travis has another suggestion.