Get ready to battle the blues with a little dirt therapy this winter

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soil in hands

In my lifetime, I have found myself drawn to dirt in the wintertime.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty much drawn to dirt anytime, but the limited ability to just connect with it in the winter, actually gets to me. During a particularly rough spot in my life about 20 years ago, I left my house at night and went to a 24-hour store and bought plants and bags of soil. I repotted and planted in my kitchen until 1 a.m. in the morning.

I felt so much more at peace with my thoughts and better prepared to face another day ahead of me. I started referring to this as my “Dirt Therapy.”

Any time I am outdoors, whether it be hunting in the woods, fishing off a bank or working that garden, I feel an improvement in my mood and my tenacity, because I smelt and felt the dirt! Seriously, I’m not making this up! I was very happy to recently learn that science is recognizing what I have affectionately coined Dirt Therapy.

In 2007 a few articles appeared that touted “Getting Dirty May Lift Your Mood”, Medical News Today 2007-04-05 and “Dirt exposure ‘boosts happiness,” BBC News 2007-04-01. More recently the TLN Blog: Exploring the connection between nature and health was cited by Horticulture Magazine and the National Wildlife Federation for the blog they did in 2011 explaining the connection between dirt and happiness.

According to all these articles, studies are showing that Mycobacterium Vaccae, a strain of bacterium in soil increases the release of serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone our body releases to help regulate mood and decrease anxiety. This contributes to better mental clarity and focus. There has been a study at Royal Marsden Hospital in London that also shows promise in treating cancer symptoms in patients.

The theory is that the body’s immune response to the bacterium triggers the production of serotonin. How cool is that?!

It is believed through current research that the bacterium can enter the body through normal contact with the soil. It can be breathed in while toiling the soil and it can enter through a cut on your skin when you’re being hands-on.

I always say, “A little dirt don’t hurt,” so now we can elevate ourselves to a better place through the love of dirt! So share the love of dirt and enjoy some of the best therapy mother nature has to offer.

Dig in!

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Kathy Baugh is the Administrative Assistant for Belmont Soil and Water Conservation District in southeastern Ohio. She has 22 years of office experience and joined the SWCD in February 2015.

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