It’s one of my favorite feelings: the days get longer, the quality of the light starts to brighten, the birds start singing, the world is flush with spring fever!
Suddenly I feel like I can do anything.
All the projects I was putting off all winter seem like no big deal.
They seem like fun. They seem like things I should tackle all at the same time! Immediately! Right this very minute!
This is what my brain tells me, anyway.
And next thing you know, I’m collapsed on the couch, exhausted and defeated, surrounded by piles of dusted-off-but-still-unfinished endeavors.
The origin of the term “spring fever” is surprising. It didn’t originally refer to a certain giddiness that overtakes us when the daffodils start blooming.
It referred to an actual disease, the symptoms of which included joint swelling, loose teeth and wounds that are slow to heal—all signs of compromised immunity.
Scurvy, it turns out, was the underlying cause.
During winter in the 18th century, when the term first emerged, people didn’t have ready access to fresh fruits and veggies.
As a result, as the cold months dragged on, their bodies slowly became depleted of vitamin c (which causes scurvy).
Nowadays, many more of us are fortunate enough to not worry about access to fresh foods, no matter what time of year it is.
But there’s a lesson in the idea that our bodies (and minds) have been through something during the winter.
We’ve been drained, and are in need of slow, methodical restoration.
That first rush of spring energy can feel like a sugar high because that’s what it is, in a way—a shot of something dizzyingly sweet, which tastes delicious but leads to a crash.
The goal is to enjoy that jolt, to notice it as it hits, but to see it as an invitation to gently switch gears, rather than slam on the gas.
One way to healthily embrace spring-fever energy is to sync up your body with the sun.
Seasonal mood experts tell us that light affects the body in two key ways.
The first is setting the circadian clock, meaning that our sleep cycles naturally regulate with the sun. We sleep more in winter than we do in the summer.
The second is what psychologists call an “alerting effect.”
If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this “alerting effect” is what diminishes dramatically in the colder, darker months, sometimes leading to lethargy and depression.
But even if SAD is not something you suffer from, there’s still a natural lessening in your general receptivity to stimulation in the winter. We are all lower.
As light gradually increases throughout the spring and early summer, our bodies gradually tune in to it—as the world around us brightens and enlivens, so will we.
The key word is “gradually.” If you match your energy to the sun’s, as it increases in strength, so will you.
What are your favorite springtime rituals?
Elizabeth is a journalist who has been writing about health, beauty and wellness for over 20 years. She lives in Northern New Mexico with her two dogs and several hundred trees, shrubs, bushes and succulents.
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