As a kid, you probably liked mud. What kid doesn’t? Now that I’m an adult with children of my own, it seems like my boys are magnetically attracted to mud and puddles. The wetter and dirtier the ground is, the more they want to squish through it.
To adults, this affinity for mud may seem kind of strange. Mud is messy, and frankly, kind of gross. It gets boots dirty and splatters onto nice clean clothes. Some adults are so mud-averse that they would rather not walk than walk through mud. Mud is bad. Cleanliness, flowers, and sunshine are good.
But after years of hiking through winters in Israel, I’ve discovered the wonderful side of mud.
I like the sound of mud as it squishes under my boots, and the feel of it as I sink slowly down into the earth. It feels rebellious in an “I’m gonna get my shoes dirty and I just don’t care” kind of way. I like the smell, the texture, the way it splatters onto the bottom of my hiking pants making me look like I had a wild day.
Of course, the fact that I can easily wash it all away at the end of the day sure helps.
But let’s dig a little deeper. Studies suggest that dirt actually contains a happy maker, called Mycrobacterium vaccae. This little organism has been shown to have antidepressant properties. Stirring up that soil releases antidepressant microbes into the air. Deep breaths filled with this bacterium can boost serotonin, making you feel more relaxed and happier.
Who knew that that’s why kicking up some mud can make us feel so good? (As if the smell of morning rain wasn’t enough.)
After stamping around in the mud, your boots will invariably become coated with an impossible layer. At which point, you’ll probably be forced to run around in a grassy area until it all comes off. So fortunately for you, you’ll get to dance around in nature and feel like a kid again.
Once you’ve experienced all the elements and your hike through nature is done, you can scrape your boots on a rock, unlace them, and set them aside until the mud dries. Driving home in your stockinged feet, you’ll smile with the recollection of your day. Dancing through the mud, you threw caution to the wind (for once) and embraced nature in all of its disorder.
You experienced moments of carefree joy at little actual cost: Mud sounds like a formula for happiness to me.