Spring is here, the sun coaxing the trees to bloom and plants to pop their heads out of the cold winter soil. People start to feel more energized and happy and motivation soars as the days warm. What is it about spring that banishes those winter blues and makes us ready to take on the world? Science can give us some answers to that. First, the days are getting longer and there is more sunlight after the vernal equinox. Here in the northern hemisphere, that's March 20 or 21, and in the southern hemisphere, it's September 22 or 23. During winter, nights are longer than days, but days and nights are about the same length at each equinox. The vernal equinox is the tipping point where days get longer and nights, shorter. This increased exposure to sunlight changes our brain chemistry to improve our mood and make us more productive.
When we are exposed to sunlight, our eyes send signals to the pineal gland in the brain to increase serotonin and decrease melatonin levels. Known as a happiness hormone, serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with mood, emotions, appetite, and digestion. Higher serotonin levels appear to be related to confidence and lower rejection sensitivity, but lower levels are associated with depression. In addition to getting out in the sunlight, you can encourage an increase in serotonin by challenging yourself regularly with activities that reinforce a sense of purpose and accomplishment in your life.
Melatonin regulates our daily biological clocks and is vital for controlling mood and energy levels. At the same time that exposure to the sun increases serotonin levels, it decreases melatonin. Furthermore, the pineal gland chemically alters serotonin to create melatonin. This deep connection between the two hormones may be a factor in the sleep disorders associated with ADHD and depression.
When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D. This essential vitamin helps our bodies absorb calcium, promoting bone growth and health. Studies also link Vitamin D deficiency to a weakened immune system, depression, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Some studies have also identified a seasonal increase in dopamine. This brain chemical is closely linked to feelings of pleasure and motivation. Dopamine is triggered when you experience new things--and doesn't everything in spring feel new?
The Messy Connection
Some Messies struggle with depression, ADHD, sleep disorders, or other issues related to neurochemical imbalances. As trees start to bud and we get more sun-time, the natural infusion of happy chemicals may be enough to boost our confidence and make us feel able to do things we have put off through the winter.
Ride the Wave
Take advantage of that springtime motivation while you still can. Since those same energy-producing neurochemicals can also make us feel more scattered, choose a single project you want to complete this spring. Get out your Messy Notebook and sketch out the steps you need to complete it. Set a deadline and plan a reward you will give yourself when you finish. If the project feels too overwhelming to do on your own, schedule an introductory appointment with me. I will help you make a realistic plan and cheer you on as you accomplish it. I've recently developed a new system for supporting Messies when they declutter or do spring cleaning-- I'd love to share it with you. So, let's enjoy the benefits of spring while they last!