Gardening provides practical ways to stay healthy
By April Ward Master Gardener Traineer
I love playing in the soil. Some of my greatest memories as a little girl is playing in the dirt and making mud pies with my sister, while my grandmother worked in the garden. We would search for earthworms and I remember being so content. Well, now as an adult in my 40’s I’m loving getting dirty again and gone are the days of well-manicured nails.
One day while I was working in the yard I started thinking about how relaxed I felt, even though I was pouring in sweat and knowing that the next day I wouldn’t be able to walk from all the “squats” I had done. As a nurse I was kind of intrigued, wondering if there was some sort of scientific reason why working in the yard or garden would bring such calmness and relaxation. I researched it a little and found that there is a friendly bacteria called “Mycobacterium vaccae” found in soil that may stimulate the part of the brain that produces serotonin, which in turn has the same effect as an anti-depressant drug! This explained my sense of relaxation and calmness that I always feel when I interact with mother earth.
We are living in some very difficult times right now. I know at times I have felt overwhelmed with the changes we have had to make in our everyday life, and sad over everything that is happening in the world. Stress affects our health. Our mental and emotional health is important because it impacts our thoughts and feelings and behavior. Chronic stress can exacerbate serious health problems and can contribute to many health problems.
Gardening is a practical and beneficial way to stay healthy. It can contribute to an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. I encourage everyone to play in the soil and get dirty! You don’t have to have a large area, you can garden in a small and compact suburban yard. Start small and simple. Gardening is an opportunity to enrich our lives and souls, and its rewarding. It can give you emotional control in world that seems out of control. We might think we are nurturing our garden, but we are really nurturing ourselves.
“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling” – Mirabel Osler
For more information, call the AgriLife office at 498-4071 in Odessa or at 686-4700 in Midland or visit aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu or westtexasgardening.org.