Many of us feel an increased sense of optimism and energy when springtime comes around, but why? We look at some of the scientific reasons behind spring fever.
Flowers blooming, lambs frolicking, bees buzzing. As actor and comedian Robin Williams once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying ‘Let’s Party!’”
And it’s true. When Spring is in the air, many of us do feel an energy boost and renewed sense of optimism for the year ahead. So is this just down to nature thriving around us? Or is there a more scientific explanation for our brighter state of body and mind?
The roots of Spring fever
Ironically, the term ‘spring fever’ has its origins in what might be considered the very opposite of vitality. In olden days, fresh fruit and vegetables were extremely hard to come by during the long winter months, which resulted in the majority of the population suffering from a marked deficiency of Vitamin C.
By springtime, this condition was at its peak, which often resulted in people displaying the diverse and worrying medical symptoms of scurvy - from swollen joints and loose teeth to festering sores or even, in extreme cases, death.
Somehow the term for this erratic behaviour stuck, but it took on a whole new meaning from the 19th century onwards.
A modern perspective
The restless energy we feel awakening in ourselves during springtime today is more to do with our natural biology than any sickness. It’s in our genes. The shift in seasons ensures that our body clocks kick fully back into gear, and our hormones start to awaken from their winter hibernation.
The result? In general, our mood improves, our outlook becomes sunnier (hopefully like the weather), and our expectation levels for the future rise accordingly. In other words, we’re more likely to be making plans and full of optimism.
Yes, there are plenty of reasons why Spring sees us burning brighter than before. So let’s take a closer look at some of the science behind the spring in our step:
1) Daylight & weather
We humans have always been sensitive to the weather, and despite modern attempts to control our immediate environment such as heating and air conditioning, it remains a huge influence on our lives. Sunlight especially is proven to be essential to our overall health – not just for the boost of Vitamin D it provides to our bodies, but also the mental stimulation it offers our brain (more of which later). And when those clocks go forward in Spring, we know we’re going to get more of that good thing.
2) Flora & fauna
Fresh buds and new shoots help to give us a renewed sense of life and warmth returning to the landscape around us. Plus of course the hope that there will soon be more choice of fresh local produce on the menu! In addition, nothing says Spring quite like baby animals lolloping around the paddock. And although, unlike the majority of mammals, human reproduction isn’t limited to this time of year, being surrounded by ‘offspring’ can have a knock-on effect for our libido, and more.
3) Serotonin & melatonin
The increased daylight in Spring also triggers our brains’ pineal gland, reducing our melatonin levels – the hormone that regulates our body clock and controls our tiredness, among other things. Conversely, like a pair of scales redressing the balance, our serotonin levels also rise, making us happier, livelier and altogether more energetic. Talking of which…
4) Dopamine & friskiness
It’s not just animals that get frisky in Spring. As well as our sex drive, enthusiasm and confidence all rising, our brains naturally produce more dopamine – the hormone associated with new experiences – as we take in all the fresh sights, sounds and smells that the season brings. This in turn triggers our testosterone production, making us more receptive to romance. And yes, that applies to both men and women.
5) Out & about
Lastly, the warmer temperatures of Spring mean we can spend more time outside. Great for our mental health (walking in nature slows our heartbeat and makes us feel more relaxed), this is also good for our physical health, as we can take more exercise out in the fresh air. And of course as mentioned, more time outdoors means more Vitamin D, an essential we would have trouble replicating otherwise.
So you see it’s not just a myth. Spring actually does put a spring in your step. All the more reason to get out there and enjoy the feeling this season. After all, it won’t happen again for another year.