“Spring fever,” associated with a feeling of renewed energy, ambition and daydreaming about getting outdoors has long since been romanticized and speculated about in literature and every day conversation. However, how much of it is attributed to a reprieve from the harsh winter weather and being cooped up indoors, and how much of it is an actual physiological phenomenon- and what causes it? Although “spring fever” is not a conclusive diagnosis for changes in a person’s physical state, mood, or attitude, a study by Matthew Keller of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics in Richmond revealed that there was a positive correlation between time spent outdoors on a sunny spring day and a more positive mood, according to Scientific American. In contrast, moods declined when temperatures began to rise past 72 degrees, which was shown to be the “ideal” temperature for a pleasant mood (and is coincidentally also widely accepted as “room temperature”). Seasonal implications on attitude and mood have been more frequently explored since the 1980s when a diagnosis was produced for SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is commonly categorized as seasonal depression often occurring throughout the winter months and being relieved come spring. The release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin by the pineal gland has also been speculated to influence the lesser degree to which many of us feel sluggish or groggy upon the beginning of spring and its accompanying warmer weather.
The heightened energy, awareness and motivation that is characteristic of typical “spring fever” and is thought to spur such activities as spring cleaning that promote sensations of starting fresh can at least partially be attributed to the reduced release of melatonin in the body. Darkness facilitates the release of the hormone, making it easier for us to fall asleep at night and promoting a healthy and regular sleep cycle, and with the increase in the amount of daylight in the spring months as a result of daylight savings time, there is less melatonin in the body and consequently less of a physiological desire to sleep or associated sensations of a loss of energy. Daylight striking earlier in the morning is a naturally-occurring signal to our bodies to awaken and begin our daily routines. Bright light therapy, which is intended primarily in order to encourage melatonin release, has proven to be effective in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Although there is some physiological justification to the physical, attitude and personality changes many of us can account for upon the arrival of spring, there are also social factors at work, such as many people communicating increased feelings and influence of positivity and happiness when the weather is warmer, encouraging a similar mindset in others that they may encounter. An uplifting mood can easily be contagious, and as individual moods improve across the board when temperatures are warmer, others are also likely to detect this, consciously or not, in the facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice of those they interact with.