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Springy times

Spring is on it’s way. Goodbye jumpers, boots, thick coats and hello lighter evenings, lighter clothes and outdoor living. And for those of us lucky enough to still have their health, spring can provide other benefits. Its a strong sense of a new beginning, a new start.

Spring is on it's way

The start of spring can make us all feel more motivated and can make us feel less connected to the past so we can feel lighter and more optimistic about the future.

These moments, can promote bigger-picture thinking, which helps us to focus on our goals. Whether the goals are related to health, finances or professional worries, newly working from home or being suddenly at a loss for something to do, Spring can help us to focus more effectively.

Spring can also strengthen us with the relief it brings from season affective disorder (Sad) (Sad). Even if you do not have a clinical case of it, most people will experience some degree of lifting of mood in the summer months. Lighter evenings and sunny mornings help us all to feel more optimistic.

Head towards the light

Studies have shown that as humans, we evolved in a tropical place, where there was a lot more light, which means our brains have evolved to expect a certain amount of it. It may also explain why we can be susceptible to changes in light and why the gloomier months can negatively affect sleep patterns and mood.

Sad symptoms that spring might alleviate include low mood, tiredness, sleeping longer than normal and cravings of carbohydrates in particular.

How does the light enhance our moods?

Spring brings a glorious sunny morning light, crucial for setting our circadian rhythms.

When it’s dark, we produce melatonin, which acts as a time signal to the body, telling it we should be sleepy. When we start to experience sunny mornings those mornings can be very effective at switching that melatonin off, which then tells the brain and the rest of the body it’s now time to be awake and active.

We have a special set of receptors in our eyes which communicate directly with the body clock in the brain, which are particularly sensitive to blue-green light, which on a sunny day, is the colour of the sky. So that sort of bright sunlight, that outdoor light is what our brains are particularly sensitive to. Exposure to this in the morning helps us to wake up and shake off bleary-eyed grumpiness. And it helps to regulate our sleep. If your body knows when the day is starting, it’s easier for it to also know at what time it needs to start winding down and getting ready for sleep. And of course sleeping well has the positive knock-on effect of giving you a better shot at feeling content and having good overall health.

Get out there, if you can

When spring finally arrives it’s essential that we make the most of any opportunities to be outside, whether it’s a walk, or additional gardening, or spending some time on the balcony.

Getting some sun can fill our heads with new ideas, too. Studies have found that half an hour out in the sun boosted not only mood, but also memory and creativity.

Further studies have shown that seasonal increases in hours of sunshine correlated with decreased mental health distress.

Longer days also seem to extend the amount of use we get from waking hours. When it’s light in the evenings, it feels like daytime for longer. Staying up to batch cook, bake bread or sort out cupboards, will seem appealing all of a sudden. Light does to some extent push sleep away a little bit and people do often feel more alert when there’s bright light.

And of course, with spring, light and warmth comes nature. April will see the return of swallows, swifts, cuckoos, martins and other feathery summer visitors. The more birds we see in our neighbourhoods, and the more greenery, the more robust our mental health will be. Being around nature can make us more satisfied with life in general.

What are the medical benefits from Spring?

GP’s are now prescribing exercise and being outside as a form of therapy. Something as simple as gardening can boost our mood. So plant some seeds and watch them grow, whether that’s in a flowerbed or a window-sill or balcony pot. Get a bird feeder – ensuring it’s inaccessible to squirrels, which are bird’s nest predators – and watch the birds flock to your garden.

On warmer days, we can throw open the windows, let the fresh air flood in and expel the indoor pollutants that have accumulated from a winter’s worth of cooking and cleaning. We can welcome the reduction in traffic noise and fumes and kick back, ready for summer. Happy almost Spring everyone xx

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