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A spring in your step

March 2018

field of daffodils
Early spring flowers can make us feel happy

Despite the atrocious weather of early March, many of us feel more optimistic and even happier than we did at the beginning of winter.

According to many areas of research, we do really feel happier when spring is on the way, even if the temperatures aren’t noticeably warmer.

One of the main reasons is that days are becoming longer. As with so much of nature, this happens at a minute level, but by March 25th, the day we change our clocks forward, we will be receiving 12 hours and 25 minutes of daylight hours (between sunrise and sunset). Compare that with Christmas Day just three months ago and we received only 7 hours and 50 minutes of daylight.

And it doesn’t have to be sunny for this difference in light hours to affect our mood. When we wake the days our lighter, in the evenings sunset comes a lot later. The extra natural light affects us in many ways including of cause helping to prevent SAD, that seasonal affective disorder tied to long dark winter days. Exposure to sunlight also has the key affect of increasing the hormone serotonin in the brain, which makes you feel happy.

Another benefit of spring is that the weather, despite the odd cold spells, is definitely warming up. Even in the midst of the recent snow, most people were well aware it wouldn’t last for too many days; whereas a bitter spell at the end of November for instance has the potential of going on for weeks. In spring the heat from the sun is definitely warmer and this is noticeable when the sun comes out. This is all about the tilt of the earth’s axis; in winter the sun’s rays hit the earth at a shallow angle and the rays are more spread out, reducing the amount of energy that hits any one spot. As we move towards summer, the sun’s rays hit the earth at a steeper angle with the rays more concentrated. Hence we gain more heat and warmth is always a comfort to say nothing of the vitamin D and other benefits from sunshine.

 Along with the longer days and extra heat comes the change in nature and that always affects our senses. As the snowdrops and early daffodils give way for later spring flowers, just seeing their colours can lift our spirits and help to bring happiness and extra energy. Research has shown that a bouquet of flowers can relieve stress, enhance mood and increase vitality…no wonder after the dark monochrome of winter days, seeing and smelling bright spring flowers makes us feel better.

This feeling of extra happiness and energy often has ongoing affects. People definitely take more exercise in the spring, and interestingly research has shown this is not just because it is easier to get outside. Along with new year, spring is a peak time at many health clubs and gyms for new membership as people decided to get into shape for the warmer months ahead. It is all about energy levels and the increased energy that comes with more daylight and warmth helps to account for other spring activities such as spring cleaning the house – although being able to open the windows wide is also a great incentive.

The University of Michigan has researched into this area and found that getting outside can really improve memory and broaden cognitive style. One of the study’s authors said that being outside in pleasant weather (it doesn’t have to be hot, just pleasant) offers a way to reset a mindset. He said that time spent outside really can affect mood.

Visually of course the signs of spring around us also trigger improvements in our mood. New growth on the trees and in the hedgerows, lambs frolicking outside, all the signs of spring enhance the fact this is the time of rebirth and renewal. And that is a wonderful boost to happiness and optimism for everyone.

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