How getting your hands dirty calms your mind

I have a garden plot.  This year I had a bumper crop for the neighborhood vermin.  What the rabbits didn’t eat the rats finished off.  I never caught any rats in action but I don’t think rabbits can climb up apple trees or tomato vines.   Based on research the neighborhood rabbits and rats are not only well fed but are very mellow.

Well fed by judy

Most gardens are sources of fresh food, but increasingly they’re also an extension of therapy for people with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD; depression; and anxiety.

It’s called horticultural therapy. And some doctors, psychologists and occupational therapists are now at work to test whether building, planting, and harvesting a garden can be a therapeutic process in its own right.

“Social scientists have also been looking at gardens built by and for the homeless, ex-convicts on probation and hospital patients. The results of early studies suggest they have a positive impact. Most people tend to not revert back to bad behavior and many make changes in their lives for the better, the studies show.”

“For now, that evidence seems to be enough to fuel the burgeoning field — programs like a camp for troubled teens in Hawaii, called Pacific Quest. Program staff tell The Salt they believe the garden is a beneficial tool to emotionally engage the kids.”

“For a few months, students — many with psychological issues from trauma, adoption, depression — band together and run a garden from the seed to the dinner plate. “They are introduced to the garden by eating the food planted by [a camper] who was in their shoes just a few months ago,” Travis Slagle, a Horticultural Therapy Association member and land supervisor for Pacific Quest, tells The Salt. “That builds their curiosity.”‘

A 2007 study in the journal Neuroscience found a bacteria found in soil linked with increased serotonin production in the brain — a sign that gardening could increase serotonin levels and improve depression.

“Much of the science behind just how gardening affects the mind and brain still remains a mystery. What scientists do know is that gardening reduces stress and calms the nerves. It decreases cortisol, a hormone that plays a role in stress response.”

click here to Read entire article

Next year I’m planting flowers. It’s only fair I give the snails their share of calm.




14 comments on “How getting your hands dirty calms your mind

  1. I love reading this blog because it’s as entertaining as it is informative. And I’m so glad you’ve found a way to keep the local vermin well fed – you at least can shop for your food. They’ve got to scrounge.

    Seriously, another very good thing for people to do is to work with clay which has many of the same calming and engaging effects. While you can’t eat the results, the physical engagement of working with clay is beneficial, even if the products aren’t fired and the damp clay is just tossed back into the heap like caught fish released into the ocean.


  2. Great post!! I knew gardening was therapeutic but it is nice to read that there are studies which prove it. I thought only chocolate improved serotonin levels 🙂

    That is one very cute rat! Terrific post. Am sharing it with many……



    • Peta,
      Happy you liked it! I love gardening, and getting dirty (Since I love falling water I love getting clean too)! Thank you for sharing–rat loves to get his picture out in public!!


  3. Oooo I love my gardening! Its true though what you say, the air, the light, the sun (limited here in Scotland, but you get the gist) and the exercise all combine to send the mind into a happier place. It’s just fantastic! Thanks for the post … Looking forward to others 🌻🌻


    • Howikilledbety,
      I love to garden, too. I grew up in Arizona, where there is too much sun, but California is just about right. I am lucky because I love to get dirty, sunshine and exercise as you mention, and also, I love getting clean, too–so I continue the fun when I go inside.


        • Katie, I’m responding instead of Peggy (which I agree is a lovely name but not as lovely as Peggy herself!) to tell you that she and I are BOTH delighted you found CATNIPblog. I was in Scotland in the late 1960’s and I remember the wonderful people and fabulous architecture . . . even tho the weather was, as you say, not the best when I visited. It was late fall and rained . . . a lot! I particularly remember the children who were delightful.


        • You’re right, the people are just amazing … something that I’ve never come across before! They are so welcoming. But, yes, oh how it rains! Lovely to meet you both and I’m so glad to have found you! Katie


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