The Science Behind Why Spring Makes Us Happier

The Science Behind Why Spring Makes Us Happier

Getting down to the basic science of spring fever
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It is finally the time of year to emerge from near hibernation, ditch our jackets, shake off our grumpy dispositions, and embrace spring. In a matter of a few days, our dead college campuses have literally come back to life. Skies are bluer, mornings brighter, the air warmer, and everything simply seems -- better. As I sat outside in the center of campus this past week, enjoying the weather and watching the amazing spectacle of people frolicking in the sunshine, I started to wonder why spring fever exists --scientifically, of course. What is it in our bodies, brains, and hormones that just makes us so much happier in the springtime?

An article in the Journal of the Association for Psychological Science states that "pleasant weather improves mood and broadens cognition," which proves that there is a relationship between good weather and happy moods. But where does this relationship come from? Scientifically, one must approach this question from various perspectives, simply because there could be lots of explanations as to why warmth + sunshine = happiness.

For instance, if you happened to ask a typical doctor why you suddenly seem in much better spirits over the past few days, he or she would probably hardly look at you while muttering "spring fever" before returning to more pressing business. The term "spring fever" is, in fact, an oxymoron, because it is actually a sign that your body "is in good working order," according to medical meteorologist Gerhard Lux of the DWD weather service. People have always been sensitive to weather, and during the change in seasons, different parts of the brain become activated.

However, if you were feeling determined and wanted some more information, you could ask an endocrinologist about your sudden onset of "spring fever." As someone who specializes in the study of hormones, an endocrinologist would say that spring fever is caused by a change in hormonal balance due to the sun's rays. Helmut Schatz, spokesman for the German Society of Endocrinology, explains that when more light hits the eye on the growing days of spring, the pineal gland responds and tells the brain to cease production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Meanwhile, levels of serotonin, the hormone that stimulates happiness, increase when it is sunny. The combination of these two changes in hormonal levels, therefore "makes us more lively."

But we can't stop there, because now you want to know exactly what light has to do with anything here. So you finally ask a psychologist, specifically Peter Walschburger, professor of biopsychology at the Freie Universität Berlin, why good weather improves mood, he would say it has to do with visible light levels. Humans are naturally programmed to be active when it is light outside, and rest when it is dark. Therefore, activity and human behavior change dramatically when the sun comes out on nicer, spring days. Walschburger says, "We react massively to light. Suddenly there are a lot of people out and about, so you have a tendency to go outside."

Additionally, the body's internal clock, which controls the body's circadian rhythms (the 24-hour cycles of body temperature, hormonal secretion, and sleep) is directly affected physiologically by bright light, according to Dr. Michael Terman, director of the Light Therapy Unit at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan. ''For humans, early morning bright light is a particularly critical signal for keeping the body in synch for day and night.'' Thus, as the days grow longer and the duration of sunlight per day extends, people start to sleep less and eat less, but also feel less depressed and more energized.

In essence, the feeling you are experiencing right now, spring fever as it is commonly deemed, is a combination of timing, the natural human body program, hormones, and most importantly, light. So for the next few weeks, relish in the happiness you are feeling, because this junction of events only happens for a short time each year. Go lay outside in the sun, run around, or get some ice cream -- whatever floats your happy boat.

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I Weigh Over 200 Lbs And You Can Catch Me In A Bikini This Summer

There is no magic number that determines who can wear a bikini and who cannot.
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It is about February every year when I realize that bikini season is approaching. I know a lot of people who feel this way, too. In pursuit of the perfect "summer body," more meals are prepped and more time is spent in the gym. Obviously, making healthier choices is a good thing! But here is a reminder that you do not have to have a flat stomach and abs to rock a bikini.

Since my first semester of college, I've weighed over 200 pounds. Sometimes way more, sometimes only a few pounds more, but I have not seen a weight starting with the number "1" since the beginning of my freshman year of college.

My weight has fluctuated, my health has fluctuated, and unfortunately, my confidence has fluctuated. But no matter what, I haven't allowed myself to give up wearing the things I want to wear to please the eyes of society. And you shouldn't, either.

I weigh over 200lbs in both of these photos. To me, (and probably to you), one photo looks better than the other one. But what remains the same is, regardless, I still chose to wear the bathing suit that made me feel beautiful, and I'm still smiling in both photos. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can and can't wear because of the way you look.

There is no magic number that equates to health. In the second photo (and the cover photo), I still weigh over 200 lbs. But I hit the gym daily, ate all around healthier and noticed differences not only on the scale but in my mood, my heart health, my skin and so many other areas. You are not unhealthy because you weigh over 200 lbs and you are not healthy because you weigh 125. And, you are not confined to certain clothing items because of it, either.

This summer, after gaining quite a bit of weight back during the second semester of my senior year, I look somewhere between those two photos. I am disappointed in myself, but ultimately still love my body and I'm proud of the motivation I have to get to where I want to be while having the confidence to still love myself where I am.

And if you think just because I look a little chubby that I won't be rocking a bikini this summer, you're out of your mind.

If YOU feel confident, and if YOU feel beautiful, don't mind what anybody else says. Rock that bikini and feel amazing doing it.

Cover Image Credit: Sara Petty

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8 Things You Learn When You're Related To A Drug Addict

1. No one is obligated to choose you.
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Being the child, or family member of a drug addict can be hard but depending on how you look at it, it can also be a blessing in a very weird way. Here are eight things you learn about life from being the child or family member of a drug addict.

1. No one is obligated to choose you.

2. When people choose you, you know to cherish it.

3. Not everyone is going to understand your situation.

4. People have very skewed opinions about families of drug addicts.

5. People can change.

6. Not all people choose to change.

7. Being selfish is actually a lot of work.

8. Don't judge a book by its cover, or a person by their family members.

There are many things you learn about life, often sooner than most, when you're related or close to a drug addict. In my case, I have many members of my dad's family as well as my dad, who overdosed when I was young, who are addicted to drugs. Seeing people choose substance over blood at a young age is eyeopening, and hard to understand. As you get older and begin to understand the severity of the situation; life becomes clearer. You don't trust everyone you meet, you try to stay away from risky behavior, and family that chooses you becomes all the more important.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

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