Dirty Hands are Happy Hands: Antidepressants in The Soil


Gardeners often to refer to their gardens as their “happy place” and now there may be a biological reason for it. Researchers have discovered a strain of bacterium in soil that may be responsible for increasing serotonin and decreasing anxiety.

How Dirt Makes You Happy

The soil microbe, Mycobacterium vaccae, acts on the brain in similar manner as an antidepressant, stimulating serotonin release. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, a common issue for senior citizens residing in senior living communities.

Many residents in senior living facilities have trouble with the transition to a new home with new people. Change isn’t easy and often residents experience anxiety, depression, anger or stress, as they make a move from a lifetime home to a new environment. While there are many medications readily available to alleviate these emotional health issues, digging in a garden might be just what residents need for greater emotional and physical wellness.

Gardening With Seniors

On-site raised bed gardens and garden programming at senior living communities spurs activity in the residents by getting them outside to dig and plant in the gardens, giving them access to these wonderful antidepressants in the soil. They create ideal opportunities for seniors to leave indoor residences to experience nature while socializing with other residents, which in turn helps to foster a sense of community.

A resident at the Goddard House in Brookline, Massachusetts, where our urban farmers work with residents to maintain six raised beds and provide educational programming, speaks of their on-site garden “as a place that makes Goddard feel all the more like home and a place we are taking care of.” The Growing the Farm at Goddard House program has received accolades from the Massachusetts Assisted Living Association for its innovation.


We connect people to food, to community, and to the world through inspiring shared urban farming experiences.