We have all heard the phrase April showers bring May flowers, but did you know that the winter blues bring spring fever? On Saturday, March 20th, less than a week after we sprang forward in time, the first day of spring in 2021 arrived. With this change in season, students emerged from their hibernation, shedding their puffer jackets and defrosting their smiles as notes of seasonal depression melted away with the 60-degree weather. One may find themselves asking the questions: is this warm weather laced with adrenaline? What causes our winter sorrows, and why can we suddenly trade them for spring joys?
The winter season filled with holidays might not be as holly jolly as it appears. This time can actually bring on a subtype of depression called seasonal affective disorder, suitably abbreviated SAD. This dreadful time of depression for many is caused by a lack of sufficient light during these months. Our bodies and their circadian rhythms are not dictated by ticking clocks hung on walls, but rather our bodies’ internal, invisible clocks. The lack of light throws off these bodily clocks, altering the levels of melatonin and serotonin in our systems, hormones that make us feel sleepy or awake, respectively. Deprived of our bodies’ necessary amount of light exposure, we are subconsciously tricked into producing more melatonin, which can increase levels of depression. This depression manifests itself in a wide spectrum of severity and can lead to oversleeping, weight gain, increased fatigue, all with or without added feelings of severe depression.
Thus, when spring hits and it is suddenly Joe Nichols’ favorite time of year—sunny and 75—the sun’s warming rays and added light serve as a mood booster. Soaking in the sun not only provides us vitamin D and a tan, but allows our bodies to produce more serotonin, stimulating feelings of happiness and making us feel livelier. Endocrinologists, who specialize in treating health conditions related to the body’s hormones, say that spring fever is actuated by a change in hormonal balance caused by the sun’s rays. Furthermore, with the nice weather comes the impetus to get outside and exercise. This exercise increases our endorphins, simultaneously increasing feelings of pleasure and well-being.
At Wake Forest, with the recent change to a yellow operating status and abandonment of the orange, chastising signs in favor of yellow, congratulatory messages, a spring fever is evident on campus. Students act like plants; the second that sunlight hits them, they transform from withered bodies into pictures of health and energy, suddenly ready to leave their dark dorm caves to lay out on the quad and bask in the sunlight.
This euphoria is not an illusion. Spring’s timing and light exposure and our bodies’ hormone production compels us to seize the moment and forget about the dark days of winter. We begin to shine as bright as the sun, a sensation that remains with us until the leaves change in the fall, the sun sets earlier, and the cycle forever continues.