The appalling attacks in Paris this friday were, perhaps for me the low point in few months of steadily growing distress. These came on top of the nightmare that is the middle eastern refugee crisis and growing awareness of just how close we are to living under a totalitarian corporate regime (just look at the TTIP trade agreement if you doubt.)
Thanks to the miracle that is the internet we can now be updated daily on mans inhumanity to both other men and animals (wild and farmed), the escalation of planetary devastation through systematic pillaging for profit, wars, famines, environmental and climatic disaster.
Chuck a few personal and familial connundrums into the mix and I’m beginning to feel the worrying nag of autumnal blues careering full tilt towards a full blown bout of depression. The sense of powerlessness, incapacity to change or control the world in which we live, in even a small way, let alone globally sets alarm bells ringing and tells me there’s not been enough gardening done these last few months.
I’ve bored folk for years with tales of mental rejuvenation through gardening. How growing my own has seen me through two bleak periods of postnatal depression and keeps me as balanced as I think I’ll ever get. So I thought I’d have a bit of a sniff around on that interweb thang and see if there were others out there had the same feelings. And wow, how…
With something of a sense of vindication, I’ve learned of the growing creation and support of ‘gardening for health’ programs that have been sprouting up (forgive the pun, but I am so looking for laughs.) in every corner of Europe and North America over the last few years. These initiatives, mostly locally concieved and run, are developing community gardens for our sadly urban tied citizens and have given the scientific communtity much to mull over. A ton of ideas have been cited for their sucess in the alleviation of depression; physical activity, the structure gardening imposes, the rewards for your work, (food, flowers, fitness,) or simply reconnecting with the cyclical rhythms of the natural world are some. Whatever the reasons, gardening has now been proven to drastically reduce both the frequency and the severity of stress episodes. By crikey, even the British national health service is suggesting it’s doctors prescribe gardening to their frazzled and burnt out patients !
The development and study of horticultural therapy has shown that simply being in a green environment can relieve stress ; whilst actively engaging with nature (ie . gardening) ups the ante considerably by reducing anxiety, arresting the depressive’s tendancy to negative rumination, improving cognitive capacity and hence mood. What better incitement could there be for getting good and muddy ?
Well here’s one…it’s called Mycobacterium vaccae and it’s a microbacterium found in soil, yup, the common or garden variety ! Researchers have found that ingestion (by inhalation, skin contact and directly, through cuts and scapes,) of this natural antidepressent acts on the human chemistry in very much the same way as Prozac and the like ; causing cytokine levels to rise and consequently leading to a higher production of seratonin – Oh shiver yee pharmacutical corporations, give me some of that dirt.
There are gardeners, scientists, doctors and therapists shouting from the rooftops about the benefits of gardening for mental health, so why is it sometimes so darned hard to pull on the wellies and just get out there ? Well for me in the here and now, it’s absolutely chucking it down and getting dark, but that’s a bit of a cop out really. What I do know is that it’s easy to let stuff get in the way. I’m a master of flaky excuses, but at least half the battle is won when those excuses are recognised and named as such. So that said, rain or shine, misery or none, tomorrow will find me garden bound. And the day after that… And the day after that, while I’m about it.
Of course I’m not suggesting for a moment that the problems on my plate will suddenly disappear just because I’ve planted a couple of lettuce, but surely if you’re functioning better, breathing deeper; the mind freed from repetetive negative thought trains, you can get on with thinking about how you really can effect change, maybe even recognising that lots of very littles might actually make enough.
So I bid you very happy gardening,
’til next week,
http://www.sage.edu/newsevents/news/?story_id=240785 (micro bacteria incresing seratonin uptake)
http://www.farmtocafeteriacanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/GrowingHealth_BenefitsReport.pdf (depression and the benefits of gardening.)