Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why I Like to Dig in the Dirt

Today I was admiring my daffodils in their pot. Then I transplanted some sweet peas to the lovely crumbly rich soil on the side of our house. Before transplanting, I had to do a lot of weeding, since grasses and fumitory and oxalis all love this rich, crumbly soil, too. Man, it felt good to dig in the dirt. I love the smell and the surprise of finding out what is below the surface. And I recently found out there is a scientific explanation for why digging in the dirt makes you feel good.
It turns out that breathing soil bacteria triggers neurons in the brain to release serotonin. I first read about this at a great website called Hooked on Nature. It's all about getting people, especially kids, to enjoy just being in nature. There are all sorts of cool activities to do, like breathing with trees. I know this sounds suspiciously treehuggerish, but if you're in the right mood, breathing with trees is a great meditation, and hugging trees makes you feel pretty good, too, especially if it's a Jeffrey pine that smells like pineapple. There are weekly thoughts on connecting with nature on their blog, 52 Ways to Love the Earth. And one of them, on Jan. 14, 2009, was about digging in the dirt, with a little factoid about how there's scientific proof that digging in the dirt really does make you feel good. And for a more scientific article on the experiments with mice that identified the soil bacteria-serotonin connection, here's a Discover magazine article about it.
Today I also checked out my sugar snap peas, which are hanging on to their sticks and the tomato tower and growing ever upward. It's pea season!

1 comment:

rpnorton said...

Daphne, you are right "on message" with Michelle Obama. Today she had some 5th graders from a DC public school help her dig up a big plot for the new White House organic vegetable garden. The garden will be visible from E street, the thoroughfare that runs along the South Lawn near the Ellipse. I wonder if sometime we will see the President out there pulling weeds?