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  • Patricia Faust

Ah - Spring Is Here



The onset of the seasons reminds us how tuned in our body and brain are to nature. In a little over a week, the northern hemisphere will enjoy the vernal equinox on March 20th. Spring fever strikes: there is a change in our mood, we feel happier, amorous, restless and a bit distracted. Even after the spring time change an increase of daylight can help our circadian rhythms get back on track. We sleep better at night and are more alert during the day.


Although it has been cold, icy, and snowy in my part of the world, daffodils and crocuses are still popping up. It is such a relief to see those early spring flowers because it gives us an emotional lift and allows us to imagine the warm days that are ahead. Just like these plants and hibernating animals, we are also attuned to the seasonal change. Increased daylight in Spring is detected by our eyes and triggers our brain’s pineal gland. This is a pea-sized area of the brain that responds by reducing the secretion of melatonin – the hormone that regulates our daily biological clocks and is important for controlling mood and energy levels. As the days lengthen, melatonin levels drop, and we become more energized.


More daylight can also release signals in your brain that boost your mood. Serotonin levels have been found to be increasing in relevant parts of the brain. The receptive neurons, starved of serotonin through the winter months are now flooded with this neurotransmitter, which is known to be important for mood regulation.


It is also reported that there are changes in the size of the hippocampus with the different seasons. The hippocampus is the center of learning and memory, as well as controls mood. A 2015 study examined how the size of the hippocampus related to shorter or longer days. A correlation was established between hippocampus volume and seasonal variations in mood – the shorter the day, the smaller the hippocampus.


It is no coincidence that we are a little friskier this time of year. Romance is on our mind. Our brains naturally produce more dopamine this time of year – the hormone triggered by new experiences. All our senses are heightened by the start of spring – the warmth of the sun, bright colors and scents, the sounds of the birds. These experiences give us a dopamine hit, making us more susceptible to love. That in turn triggers testosterone production. It has been documented that the testosterone rise in men in the summer gets its start in the spring.


After a long, difficult winter, it is such a gift to be open to the treasures of spring.


References:

Feel that spring in your step! (May 1, 2020). Retrieved from https://researchfeatures.com/feel-that-spring-in-your-step/#:~:text=Increased daylight in spring is controlling mood and energy levels.


Manning-Schaffel, V. (May 13, 2018). This is your brain on spring fever. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/your-brain-spring-fever-ncna873106


Wallace, D. Your mind changes with the seasons. Retrieved from https://www.printfriendly.com/p/g/xaVNVy







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