Gardeners and bakers share a common understanding of the health benefits that can be found working with flour and dirt. Whether it is the touch of fingertips caressed by flour being worked into an elastic dough ball, or the massage of loam and soil while tenderly placing seedlings in a springtime garden, they make a person feel good… naturally! If you’re feeling out of balance, consider these kindred spirits for a healthier mind-body connection.
Expression & Creativity
When we work with flour or dirt, we commit to feeling with our hands. The hand is where we meet the world. Defined in our mind-body dialogue, it is an expression from the heart. It is a language that conveys our likes and dislikes, feelings of touch, and demonstrations of love.
In today’s world, however, our hands have become restricted from simple forms of touch—a handshake when greeting a colleague, or the comfort of hugging a dear friend. What has not been displaced is the internal connectivity available from hand to heart through the kindred spirits of flour and dirt. This is a parallel universe formed of simple substances that improve our well-being, lessen feelings of anxiety, and stimulate general happiness.
Simple sensations bring satisfaction by enlivening our senses and guiding us to live with greater ease. The frivolity of a child splashing in a mudpuddle, digging in the dirt or drawing circles in flour on the kitchen counter while mom made a pie… these simple childhood pastimes are now treasured memories. The hands are where we get creative and express our feelings about what we are doing. Busy hands stimulate youthful creativity.
As adults, the omission of creativity can be detrimental to our emotional health. On the other hand, discovering ways to bring small, creative projects into daily life can greatly impact our personal happiness. A wealth of findings support the emerging emphasis on everyday creativity as a way to cultivate positive psychological functioning. In short, individuals who choose to participate in creative tasks report being more energetic, calmer and happier the next day.
Research indicates there are health benefits from the activities of bakers and gardeners through the release of serotonin and dopamine, lovingly referred to as “happy hormones.” Serotonin makes us feel good, improves sleep patterns and modulates our mood. It is essential to a healthy immune system. A “dopamine high” can be attributed to feelings of bliss at the anticipation of the first-of-the-season strawberry harvest or the aroma of freshly baked bread. Be careful though, the release of dopamine can be a rush to the brain which may lead to compulsive behaviors. In this example, one would be wise not to eat the entire loaf of bread in one sitting!
All kidding aside, gardening and baking can bring an element of orderly control to our overstimulated lives. As our hands tend rows in a garden, discarding unwanted weeds, our body slows to the rhythm of our breath, creating awareness in the natural environment. Likewise, the simple act of counting the ingredients in a recipe is an opportunity for our brain to enjoy focus and clarity.
I encourage you to boost your immune system, strengthen your mental agility, and let your hands feel the expression of love available in the kindred spirits of flour and dirt. Encourage all of your senses to fully engage in the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of this season. Let your hands play by snapping fresh green beans from your garden or a local grower. Smile with delight at the crackle of crusty bread with a smear of butter. May you enjoy the gifts of kindness that await—may these kindred spirits help you sustain a lifelong healthy lifestyle. PM
Mary Ardapple Dierker is an integrative wellness strategist and health coach. For more information, visit coreviewcoach.com.