Feeling Blue? Perhaps a bit anxious? Maybe you feel like your brain is a bit fuzzy? I have two words for you.
M. vaccae (pronounced “emm vah-kay”) are a strain of bacterium found in soil. Good old fashioned DIRT! These little buggers have been shown to elevate mood, decrease anxiety and improve cognitive functioning by inducing an increase in Serotonin. Research is finding that by literally putting your hands in dirt, you expose yourself to these bacterium, and can make yourself feel better and think clearer. Below are two links for more information about the research.
Serotonin is a chemical (neurotransmitter) found in the brain. Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression and anxiety. As a matter of fact, many of our antidepressant medications are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI) . These synthetic medications allow us to float the serotonin in our brain a little longer before getting reabsorbed.
It is disturbing that the rate of depression and anxiety is skyrocketing in this country. There is much talk as to why this is so. It is well acknowledged that we have become more interpersonally disconnected which can lead to greater isolation and depression. We have transitioned from being an agricultural society that created and relied heavily on community, to what is today a technologically oriented society which is much more isolating, sedentary, and sterile.
In the circles that I travel, I hear many speak of their vigilance to keep a healthy relationship to our planet and call on us to be good stewards of our earth. The above research implies the reciprocity of our relationship with the earth. Dirt can provide us with more than food and shelter. Dirt houses microorganisms that can help us feel better and think clearer.
So, Perhaps a pill is that not the only answer to feeling better. Get your hands dirty. Plant a garden, volunteer at local farm, or pot some plants on a regular basis. What do you have to lose? Not only do you get to eat the fruits of your labor and enjoy the beauty of the flowers you plant, you get to slow down, catch your breath and just maybe, feel better.