Nothing lifts the spirits like a breath of fresh spring air. Spring is finally here! It is time to trade in that dreaded snow shovel and replace it with a gardening tool, tennis racket, or new hiking boots. No matter where we live, we all look forward to sunny days to get warm and fill our souls with new energy. For those cooped up inside most of the winter, springtime brings new adventures and the opportunity to get our bodies moving once again.
Studies show that longer days producing more light can positively affect moods and depression. However, spring has its annoyances, such as allergies and hay fever. This article will discuss the health benefits of springtime and include information on healthy eating, exercise, and mental health.
The Science of Spring and Mood
If you think winter puts you in a bad mood and spring takes you out of your bad mood, you may be on to something. Moodiness is real; sometimes, it relates to science through melatonin and our circadian clock. Changes in the neurohormone called melatonin mediate seasonal rhythms. The pineal gland secretes melatonin which is controlled by our endogenous circadian clock.
“Not everything that’s cool is science, but everything in science is cool.” ~ Phil Plait
Melatonin affects our sleep and can be a factor in anxiety and depression. More melatonin is released in darkness, and less is released with exposure to light. Some of us take melatonin supplements to help us sleep. In the winter, when we are in darkness longer, more melatonin is released, which may affect our moods due to tiredness. Hence, when spring brings longer days and daylight, our brains produce less melatonin, making us less tired, which may positively affect our moods.
Mother Earth Is Waking Up
Springtime brings a spiritual awakening to many. Seeing the first buds on the trees and discovering early spring flowers blooming represents new life, new beginnings, and renewed hope for the future. Humans celebrate worldwide with festivals, vacations, spring gardening, planting trees, spring cleaning, beginning a new exercise regimen, playing golf, etc. It is a great time to start eating healthier, too.
A plant-based diet is a healthy way to welcome spring. Whole foods give us more nutrients than processed foods. They contain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals and can lower the rates of serious diseases like heart disease and cancer. Research shows that fruits and vegetables contain many nutrients that may be integral in fighting depression.
Processed foods do not contain nearly as many nutrients as whole foods. Also, whole foods do not contain added sugars known to contribute to obesity and heart disease. Many of us consume processed foods thinking they taste better. They only seem that way in reality because we have eaten them for so long and have neglected to try plant-based items. If you cannot imagine giving up meat, try decreasing your meats and increasing your vegetables and fruits. Any improvement will help you feel better, which is something we can all bite into.
What Could Possibly Be Wrong With Spring?
Interestingly, a few issues can make our springtime a challenge. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is normally associated with effects from longer and darker winter days, but it can also affect a person during the springtime months. SAD is most common in those with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder.
Consequently, people with seasonal affective disorder also may have other mental health issues like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and eating disorders. With that said, if you are experiencing depression and it is persistent, please do not ignore the symptoms. Seek help from a mental health professional or your healthcare professional.
Seasonal allergies rear their ugly heads in the spring and affect many of us with sneezing, a runny nose, coughing, congestion, and other symptoms associated with allergies. Thankfully, effective over-the-counter and prescribed medications can alleviate the symptoms.
Hay fever, however, can present and feel like a common cold. You may experience a cough, a runny nose, sneezing, an itchy nose or throat, swelling under the eyes, and a clear discharge postnatal drip. You may also be excessively tired. How do you know if you have hay fever or a cold? With a cold, you may also have a low-grade fever and a yellow mucus discharge, which will not appear with hay fever. There are medications for hay fever, but if you can avoid the hay fever triggers, you may be able to avoid hay fever.
Some hay fever triggers include:
- Grass pollen
- Tree pollen
- Ragweed pollen
- Pet dander
- Dust mites
- Spores from molds and fungi
See your healthcare professional if symptoms do not go away and medications are not working. Asthma and sinus infections can worsen hay fever, so make sure your doctor is aware of that and any medication allergies you may have. The good news is that when treated, symptoms are manageable, and you can still enjoy spring.
So, get out there and enjoy your spring. Adventures await!
At SoCal Mental Health, your mental health is always our priority. Our dedication to you includes your overall mental well-being. The change of seasons can bring new experiences, but it can also bring anxiety and depression. Symptoms can be mild but also concerning when accompanied by substance overuse. Treatments and programs for substance abuse are included in our mental health programs. If you feel overwhelmed due to mental health issues or associated alcohol or substance dependence, we can help. Our programs are designed for your needs, whether for mental health, substance abuse recovery, relapse, or other addictive struggles. You do not have to walk this road by yourself. Call us at (888) 312-0219 for more information.