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

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've Been Sexually Harassed, Even Assaulted, Because Men Pressured Me Into Sex

And the victim-blaming isn't helping women become more confident, just FYI.

 Yes, feeling pressured into having sex is sexual harassment. 

Saying that the girl should have known, that she should have spoken up, that she should have just left his ass right then and there, is victim-blaming. When you say this, you make it more difficult for women to stand up. You tell them what we should have done. They feel like they will be judged for anything they say and do. 

When I lost my virginity, we were midway through sex when I spoke up and said “I don’t think I’m ready to do this.” He stopped. He looked at me. He said “Really? Halfway through? Don’t you think you should have said that earlier?” I didn’t say anything. He kept going. He finished. 

That day, I realized to keep my mouth shut and let a man do what he wants, and to pretend to enjoy it.

Later on, I had been dating a guy for 8 months in high school. One day, I was actually in tears while having sex because I didn’t want it. He saw my tears, but he kept going. Did I say no? No. He saw my tears. He knew I didn’t want it. Did I feel comfortable to speak out? No. This was a boy I swore I loved. But he did this to me. He manipulated me into having sex with him even when I didn’t want to. Months after we broke up, he told my sister that he was dating some other girl because she was “pure,” and I wasn’t. 

After this relationship, I believed that I was disgusting because I enjoyed sex. I was unpure and tainted. 

That day, I realized that sex is to be ashamed of — And I should be ashamed of myself.

My freshman year of college, I went to a guy’s dorm. We were making out. He moved my hand to his pants. I told him I wasn’t ready. He said OK. We kept making out. I moaned. He got up off the bed and went to grab a condom. I said no. I told him I said no. That I wasn’t ready. He spent the entire night trying to get me to have sex with him. 

I was afraid to get up and leave that night because I was afraid to disappoint him. It would have been awkward to leave. I learned from the beginning to be submissive and please.

I didn’t have sex with him that night, and I never talked to him again. 

That day, I became a stronger woman.

I’ve been in this situation more times than this. Does that make me weak? It shouldn’t, but it sure feels like it. 

I can hear so many people thinking, “You should have spoken out,” even, “You weren’t secure enough with who you were to be having sex.” I have been afraid to speak out and speak up because of what others will think of me. 

“Oh, she’s such a slut, and she always has been.” 
“Well, maybe she shouldn’t have had sex at a young age.” 
“Of course he walked all over her, she let him.”

I have been afraid to say no because of what a man will do to me. Will he guilt me into having sex? Will it just be easier to be submissive and let him do what he wants to me?

It’s not the “no” that counts. It’s the consent. It’s the yes. The resilient YES. The “Yes, I want you to have sex with me.” “Yes I want that.” “Yes, give me more.”

Consent is sexy. I say this from being in many relationships where men didn’t use me. They didn’t guilt me into it. It was fun for the both of us. These relationships (with the help of bad-ass women, counseling, and tons of self-help books) empowered me to be the confident woman I’m learning to be today. 

Why aren’t we asking MEN the questions?

“Did you ask her if she was ready? Or did you just assume?”
“Are you secure enough as a person to take a no for an answer?”
“Can you use common sense to see that a tear falling from her face is a no?”
“Are you man enough to ask if she wants this?”

If he has to beg, it is not consent, even if you say yes. 

Let me repeat: IF YOU HAVE TO CONVINCE THEM, THE ANSWER IS NO. 

Don’t try to break her down. “I can change your mind.” “Why not? What do you mean no?” 

Why aren’t we empowering women from the beginning? Never let a man treat you like you deserve them anything. You are a goddess. You are not worth a man’s time if he is begging for your sex.

Instead of victim-blaming (“She should have said no!”), we need to create a safe space for women to feel empowered and allow them to come forward about sexual harassment. I have spent most of my life afraid to speak out because of what society would think. But here I am. 

Here is the darkest, most scarred part of me. And with this, I am healing. 

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8 Facts About Bath Salts

What are Bath Salts?

Most people are familiar with the chunky and fragrant bath salts that are added to bath water in order to relax and invigorate. However, these bath salts are much different and not nearly as relaxing as users would hope. This kind of bath salt is a designer drug that mimics the effects of such illegal substances like cocaine, methamphetamines and MDMA. They belong to a group of drugs classified as synthetic cathinones, which are man-made substances that share a similar chemical makeup as the khat plant, a plant found in East Africa that acts like a mild stimulant when chewed on. Most bath salts on the market are crystalized powders that are often white or brown.

Bath Salts and its Aliases

This drug is called bath salts because of its similar, chunky rock like look as those sold in health and beauty stores as well as the ability to sell the items in stores as a legal product using this name. With law enforcement cracking down on bath salts in the last few years, people are finding them packaged as plant food and jewelry cleaner to continue their sales. These products are almost always in packaging that states that is not for human consumption.

Bath salts are also called by several other names such as:

-Bloom

-White Lightning

-Cloud Nine

-Red Dove

-Lunar Wave

How long have they been around?

Synthetic cathinones have been around since their creation in France in the 1920s. However, it stayed mostly underground until a similar drug resurfaced in Israel in 2004. Shortly after, the recipe was modified in order to be sold under different names. The current abuse of bath salts comes from their introduction into the British club scene in 2010. Between 2010 and 2011 bath salt sales boomed in Britain and America. It was then that America began to see the disturbing epidemic of users and the horrific side effects of the drug.

Abuse and Addiction

According to users, bath salts leave them with intense cravings even after one time of using it. One study even said that certain synthetic cathinones were more addictive then methamphetamines. Bath salt users explain feeling a euphoric high and sexual stimulation, similar to that of MDMA. They also explain that they feel more focused and have higher energy levels for a few hours after taking the drug, similar to methamphetamines.

Bath salts are most often snorted, but they can also be smoked and injected. Due to the ease of purchasing this drug in liquor stores and smoke shops, users quickly find themselves having a recreational use turn into a full-blown addiction. Ultimately the crash from someone coming off the drug is the most intense and uncomfortable part of the experience. In fact, abuse continues because the user doesn’t want to come down and fears the extreme side effects.

Side Effects

Though the drug is fairly new, there has already been increased rates of mental health problems in people that have used bath salts, with reports claiming people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In fact, due to the inability to test for the drug, many medical practitioners look for these mental health signs before diagnosing a person as a bath salt user.

Some of the side effects are similar to other drugs but they are often intensified. These include depression, anxiety, paranoia, agitation, feeling physically ill, and tremors. These side effects can last for days and there has been reports of users self-harming because of the emotional effects of bath salts.

Overdosing on Bath Salts

Many are familiar with bath salts based on a 2012 news story of a Florida man, high on bath salts, who literally chewed off the face of a homeless man. The homeless man ended up losing 80% of his face due to this horrific incident; the zombie-like side effects of the drug quickly made headlines all across the country. In this incident the man was said to be overdosing on bath salts and experiencing intense delusions and hallucinations. Other overdose side effects can include liver failure, seizures, and heart attack.

Many users are often violent toward themselves and others, and can inadvertently harm themselves because of a high pain tolerance. As of 2015, only 68 deaths have been reported due to bath salt overdose. However, these numbers vary based on an inability to test for the drug in peoples’ systems or if the death was associated with bath salts (such as violence).

Banning Bath Salts

By 2011 the poison control centers received over 3,000 calls which was more than ten times the previous year’s total. This caused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to spring into action in an attempt to effectively ban bath salts. The DEA exercised emergency authority to classify mephedrone, MDPV and methylone (the active ingredients in bath salts) as controlled, schedule 1 substances, thereby making it illegal to sell them or anything made of them. Then in 2012 President Obama signed a federal ban on all synthetic drugs. Even with this ban, though, it has done little to curb the problem as people are turning to the streets in order to continue to use bath salts.

Treating Bath Salt Addiction

Due to the severe and unpredictable side effects of bath salts, detox can be quite trying for the user and medical professionals alike, and it is often difficult to find rehab centers willing to treat users. A large issue is the mental disorders that are often brought on by bath salt abuse. Treatment of bath salts typically deals with detox centers and psychological therapy.

Detox begins with intense medical monitoring as well as medications to alleviate symptoms like nausea, insomnia, and agitation. Just like most drug treatments and recovery programs, those that work with bath salt abuse circle around abstinence, relapse prevention, and rehabilitation. Some take part in outpatient programs after detox but many need a more structured way of rehabilitation due to mental illness. The best way of getting through treatment is having a strong support system and accountability.

Cover Image Credit: Shutterstock

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