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Spring in your step – harnessing spring’s happy-brain chemicals to enhance your working day

It’s springtime! The birds are chirping, the days are getting longer, the daffodils have finally blessed us with their sun-infused faces, and everything is just feeling a bit lighter and brighter.

But have you ever considered why you feel better when spring arrives? While we appreciate spring for the joy and optimism it brings, it’s the science behind these feelings that makes spring truly fascinating.

There are many factors that influence springtime’s positive vibes. Some involve sunshine-induced chemical reactions, while others are due to the pure joy of being outdoors!1

Sunshine helps our bodies produce vitamin D, that immune-boosting, bone-fortifying powerhouse of a micronutrient. But did you know that sunshine also produces endorphins? UV rays increase the blood levels of these natural opiates,2 helping us to maintain a general sense of wellbeing.3

Exposure to sunlight is also known to increase the level of serotonin in our bodies.1,4 Serotonin plays a key role in regulating our moods.4 Elevated serotonin levels result in a calm yet focused mental outlook, increased self-esteem and a happier, more positive frame of mind.1,2 What’s not to love?

As well as boosting the production of these happy hormones, sunshine can downregulate melatonin, a hormone that affects how we sleep. The enhanced levels of sunshine that we are exposed to in spring results in a reduction in this ‘sleepy’ hormone, helping us feel more energised.1 Exposure to sunlight in the morning can also promote a good night’s sleep through regulation of our body’s internal circadian clock, so we awake ready to take on the day.5 Studies have shown that people who were exposed to greater amounts of light in the morning (between 8 am and noon) fell asleep more quickly at night compared with people who were exposed to low light in the morning.5 More sunshine plus better sleep? It’s a match made in wellbeing heaven!

Humans are naturally programmed to be more active when it’s light outside. Our behaviour changes and activity levels increase on a sunny, spring day.6 This is why activities like hiking, kayaking or a game of frisbee in the park seem that much more exciting when the sun is already out! Plus longer days mean more opportunities to try something new.

So, now you understand a bit more about the science behind spring’s mood-boosting magic, how can you harness all of this potential to enable a happier, calmer and more energised you?

Springtime tips to enhance your wellbeing throughout the working day

  • Take advantage of the lighter mornings – go out and get some natural sunlight before you start your working day. It’ll make you feel more alert during the day, plus help you to get a better night’s sleep later. Win-win!
  • Break up your working day with a lunchtime stroll. Getting away from your desk will give you an opportunity to switch off completely, meaning you will feel refreshed and ready to tackle any tough work assignments in the afternoon.
  • Ensure your working environment has a decent amount of natural light. If this isn’t possible, make sure the area is well-lit with artificial light. This will boost your mood and, again, help you get a better night’s sleep.
  • Embrace your additional, sunshine-infused energy. Maybe you could try a new activity? What constitutes ‘fun’ is different for everyone, but don’t let any of this energy go to waste, and find something that brings you joy.

  • Enjoy a stroll, run or catch up with family or friends in the evening (as long as there’s no more than six of you, of course) – the lighter evenings make outdoor exercise so much more inviting. The endorphin boost will help you to feel great and you are likely to feel sprightly the next morning too!

References

  1. https://dailycollegian.com/2017/04/the-wonderful-science-behind-spring-happiness/. Accessed March 2021.
  2. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/pdf/ehp0116-a00160.pdf. Accessed March 2021.
  3. https://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/13/health/endorphins-exercise-cause-happiness/index.html. Accessed March 2021.
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12480364/. Accessed March 2021.
  5. www.reuters.com/article/us-health-sleep-daylight-idUSKCN18E23E. Accessed March 2021.
  6. https://www.theodysseyonline.com/why-spring-makes-us-happier. Accessed March 2021.