200475778-001Want a happiness boost? Get dirty. Get the stuff all over you, under your nails and caked on your knees. In addition to being good clean fun, getting down and dirty does all kinds of good things for you.

When was the last time you walked barefoot in the mud and let it squish up between your toes? (I know, sounds kind of icky but once you get over the whole “hygiene” thing it actually feels really great.) Drew pictures in the dirt with a stick? Rolled around on the ground with a dog, a kid, or your significant other? If you’re like most “grown ups” it’s been a while, a really long while.

Unless you’re a gardener.  Gardeners get dirty on a regular basis and know that the benefits of working in the dirt go way beyond the satisfaction of growing beautiful flowers and organic produce.

Everyone else – pay attention here. Playing in the dirt is good for you! It’s GOOD for your health and boosts your happiness(!).

Nothing will build up your natural immunity to things found in nature more than just exposing yourself to things found in nature. Starting as a kid works best, but there’s no age at which being in the dirt stops being helpful to your overall health.

Even more amazing, there are microbes in soil that make you happier. Happier and smarter, how awesome is that? A little bug called Mycobacterium vaccae has been found to trigger the release of seratonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. Add to that, this little bacterium has been found to improve cognitive function and possibly even treat cancer and other diseases. And where do you find it? In dirt!

Here are a couple of easy suggestions for adding a little grime to your time:

Start a garden. Even if you don’t have a yard or a patio you can still grow things. A few small pots of herbs on a windowsill count as long as you plant them yourself. If you can’t do that, volunteer at a community garden or help a neighbor.

Make mud sculptures. Find a puddle (or create your own with that bottle of water you’re carrying around) and mix up a nice thick slurry. Dribble mud on a dry spot and build up spires and walls. Create fantasy animals. (Think sand castles only stickier.) If you need help, borrow a little kid to show you how it’s done.

Walk barefoot on a dirt road and kick up the dust. Even better, walk in the mud and let it squish up between your toes.

Get out here and get dirty! You’ll be happy you did.