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Light and hope

By Jannah updated on April 13, 2021

The clocks have gone forward, and we have passed the spring equinox, heralding the start of longer days and shorter nights, new growth and new life. Spring is well and truly here.
The changing seasons can have a massive effect on us psychologically. Even though we can be a bit disconnected from nature in our modern world, each of these seasons is consistent, unavoidable and part of the human experience. Spring, in particular, is a season that can bring a lot of positives to mental health.
Most notably spring brings added light and heat. With increased light comes increased serotonin, which is a great mood booster. Serotonin is a major excitatory neurotransmitter in the nervous system, and is the aim of many antidepressant drugs. By having this produced naturally in our bodies, it’s no wonder we have an extra spring in our step this time of year.
Spring bridges the darkness of winter and the bright warmth of summer. This brings with it a lot of hope about good things to come. We plant seeds believing that they will be transformed into vegetables, flowers and fruits. Buds appear on the trees and bushes with the promise of a full canopy of leaves and flowers to enjoy in the summer.
Grass starts to grow again and we can imagine a lush green carpet to play, picnic or sit on. We start to imagine the good times to come, trips to the beach, barbecues with family and friends and holidays. It all signifies less stress, good times, fun and light-heartedness.
For anyone living with Seasonal Affective Disorder, the arrival of spring can signify the ending of the low mood associated with this condition. One treatment for SAD is light therapy, so it makes sense that the increased light of spring will bring about positive changes to mood also.
Another benefit of the extra light at this time is the increased production of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is involved in promoting bone health, proper cell differentiation, and boosting immunity. It is also potentially connected to our mood. Although researchers are still unsure of how vitamin D is linked with depression, findings support this connection and also its use as a part of the treatment for depression.
As human beings, we are programmed to rest when it’s dark, and to be active and in better mood when it’s light. So if only for a few moments, make a point of appreciating the seasonal changes. Get outside, soak up the Vitamin D you’ve lived without all winter, listen to the birds, notice nature coming back to life, clear off the cobwebs and make some new goals for the year ahead.
Spring is a time where, after the long rest and rejuvenation of winter, we are able to start anew and create and build new ideas and plans. Even in the adverse circumstances that we are currently living through, nature continues on and gives us signs that we can still have hope. And it is more important than ever that we have this in our lives.

Printed in The Mayo News on 13 April 2021