How Does the Onset of Spring Affect Your Mood?

By: Kimberly Jones, RN, BScN, MNursing, CPMHN, CBS GDip
For those of you who read my last blog called “Got the Winter Blues?” here is Part II where we look at what happens to our mood as the season of spring sets in. As mentioned, Seasonal Affective Disorder touches many during the winter months, but it typically starts to wax and wane with the nearing of spring. Robin Williams said it perfectly “Spring is nature’s way of saying, let’s party!"
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Spring is the transition between winter and summer. Days get longer, temperatures get warmer and plants bloom into summer.

Spring as a season came to be in the 16th century. Prior to that, it was first called Lent. Then it was called ‘springing time’, which was shortened to ‘spring-time’, and now its just plain ole ‘spring’, a name that “stems” from plants “springing” from the ground.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the four seasons are determined by the position of the Earth's orbit in relation to the sun.


The differences in climate conditions during each season can shape our moods. What’s more, recent studies discovered that the circadian clock or circadian rhythm found in the brains of humans and animals can interpret these seasonal changes based on the amount of daylight hours. Some researchers believe that shorter days, with less sunlight (as seen in autumn and winter) can upset that internal clock.


When it is disrupted, our eating and sleeping patterns are impacted, and we can develop adverse health conditions such as obesity, cardiac complaints, and mood disorders such as depression or bipolar affective disorder.


The circadian clock tells us when to eat, sleep, and wake up. It is influenced by things in our environment such as temperature and sunlight.


During sunny days, as seen in the spring-time, people tend to seek out romance, spend extra money and become more co-operative. Also, when the UV-B rays of the sun come in contact with our skin, vitamin D is manufactured which increases the production of serotonin, a hormone that is responsible for feelings of well-being, optimism, and contentment.


In the winter, we tend to have less energy, lower moods and a need for increased sleep. It makes sense that the onset of spring might do the opposite. A 2004 report from the University of Michigan stated that thirty minutes spent outside in cheery, sunny weather improves people’s moods. 


Images come to mind when we hear the word “spring”. We think of happy things such as:Romance... jump rope…spring fever…the Easter bunny, new beginnings, gardens, spring cleaning and cutting the lawn.


But for some, the response to increased light exposure that occurs in spring-time can have the opposite effect.


Some people experience insomnia, anxiety, hyperactivity and irritability, a condition called Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder. Other evidence suggests that some individuals will still have depressive symptoms in the spring. Those with Bipolar can experience hypomania, and symptoms can include increased spending or sexual promiscuity that all too often leads to poor consequences.


Another 2013 study by Hsiang et al. connected human aggression with higher climate temperatures. They suggested that as temperatures increase, interpersonal conflicts climbed by a significant 14% and relational violence also increased by 4%. What’s more, they also found the same findings when it rained, which it often does during early springtime.


They hypothesized that the more it rains, the more aggressive people get. Other research corroborated this conclusion. In 2002, scientists Koskinen et al., found that people who worked outdoors, were more likely to commit suicide in the spring months than during the winter months.


 Whether you are overcoming difficulties with mood after a long winter, or you are experiencing a ‘high’ (or hypomanic episode) at the onset of spring, it is imperative that you keep your doctor in the loop. This requires close medical monitoring by your family physician, who is an invaluable member of your health-care team.


Attending physician appointments to help with your symptoms will get you one step closer to happily gardening, skipping rope and enjoying all that the spring season has to offer.  


  1. References

Hsiang, SM, et al., (2013). Quantifying the influence of climate on human conflict. Science.

Koskinen O, Pukkila K, Hakko H, Tiihonen J, Vaisanen E, Sarkioja T, Rasanen P. (2002). Is occupation relevant in suicide? J Affect Disord. 2002 Jul;70(2):197-203.

This article, and the products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please see your health care provider before taking any supplements or starting a new program.

Kim is a Masters prepared RN who has worked virtually everywhere. Initially, she graduated from a 3-year Diploma Program at a local college. She then completed a BScN and a Masters of Nursing Degree. Currently, she is completing a post-graduate Diploma Program in Clinical Behavioural Sciences at McMaster University. She is a Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse through the Canadian Nursing Association. She has enjoyed working in pediatrics, neurosurgery, management, palliative care, cardiology, education and psychiatry. Presently, she works in an outpatient psychiatric clinic. She also enjoys writing and blogging on a variety of subjects.

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