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As nature awakens from its winter slumber, so too can our spirits find renewal and revitalization. Seasonal changes can bring about shifts in our mental health, and Mental Health America (MHA) warns that America is in an emerging national mental health crisis with anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns at historic highs (yet the institute warns that many people do not seek support nor receive treatment). April is the perfect month to explore springtime mental health and how changing seasons can change our mood and emotions, plus actionable strategies and mindful practices to nurture your mind during this season of growth and transformation.

Springtime Mental Health: How Do Changing Seasons Affect Our Mood and Emotions?

springtime mental healthChanging seasons can significantly affect mood and mental health due to various factors such as alterations in daylight, weather patterns, and outdoor activities. Many of us are well-aware of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which the National Institute of Mental Health defines as “a type of depression characterized by a recurrent seasonal pattern, with symptoms lasting about 4−5 months out of the year.”

“It is estimated that millions of Americans experience SAD, although many may not know they have this common disorder. SAD occurs much more often in women than in men. Winter-pattern SAD also occurs more often than summer-pattern SAD. Therefore, SAD is more common in people living farther north, where there are shorter daylight hours in the winter. For example, people in Alaska or New England are more likely to develop SAD than people in Texas or Florida.

— The National Institute of Mental Health

“In most cases, SAD symptoms start in the late fall or early winter and go away during the spring and summer, known as winter-pattern SAD or winter depression,” the institute reports. Thankfully, there are many ways you can combat SAD and lighten your winter mood. Yet SAD doesn’t apply to everyone. In fact, the shift from winter to spring can also affect springtime mental health in some surprising ways.

Psychiatrists point out growing recognition of what’s known as reverse SAD, or springtime depression. They attribute the potential causes and factors as being:

On the flip side, for many people, springtime mental health actually improves compared to winter moods and emotions. That’s because during the transition from winter to spring, the increase in sunlight exposure can boost serotonin levels, which is associated with improved mood and energy levels. Additionally, the opportunity to engage in outdoor activities, such as gardening or hiking, can promote physical activity and connection with nature, leading to reduced stress and enhanced overall well-being (that’s why time in nature is one of our pillars of self care!).

Understanding these seasonal influences can help you proactively manage your springtime mental health by incorporating appropriate self-care practices, seeking social support, and, when necessary, consulting with healthcare professionals for additional assistance.

How to Improve Your Springtime Mental Health

springtime mental healthPoor springtime mental health, depression, anxiety, and other mood and emotional concerns can often make you feel like you don’t want to get out of bed — but you don’t have to take negative emotions or dark moods lying down! You have the power to take control of your springtime mental health, and that starts with awareness.

Check in with yourself regularly. Take time each day to pause and reflect on how you’re feeling emotionally, mentally, and physically.

You might even want to consider journaling or using a mood tracking app to record your thoughts and emotions, since it’s easy for us to over- or under-estimate our past moods, thoughts and emotions after a few days.

Then, look for patterns and triggers. Pay attention to recurring thoughts, feelings, or situations that impact your mental well-being. Identify triggers that contribute to stress, anxiety, or low mood so you can address them more effectively.

One strategy that works for a lot of people is engaging in mindfulness techniques, such as:

  • meditation
  • deep breathing exercises
  • progressive muscle relaxation

This allows you to become more attuned to your thoughts and sensations in the present moment.

Mindfulness is a big part of spiritual self-care, and spiritual and emotional wellness is linked to your immune health and general wellbeing! Learn more in our self-care guide on spiritual health today!

As you become more mindful and aware of your springtime mental health, incorporate self-care activities into your daily routine. With the sunnier days and warmer temperatures, spring offers amazing ways to try new self-care activities that incorporate fresh air, mood-boosting sunshine, and the mental health-protecting benefits of nature:

  • Outdoor walks: Take advantage of the milder weather by going for regular walks in nature. Whether it’s in a local park, botanical garden, or simply around your neighborhood, spending time outdoors will quickly uplift your mood and boost your energy levels.
  • Gardening: Get your hands dirty and indulge in some gardening therapy. Planting flowers, herbs, or vegetables — as we outline in our springtime gardening guide — is both calming and rewarding. Plus, nurturing plants allows you to connect with nature and witness the beauty of growth firsthand.
  • Picnics: Pack a delicious shareable snack or appetizer and head outdoors for a picnic with friends or family. Enjoying food in the fresh air surrounded by blooming flowers and greenery is a delightful way to unwind and socialize.
  • Spring cleaning: Decluttering and organizing your living space has a positive impact on your mental well-being. Take advantage of the seasonal transition to deep clean your home, clear out unnecessary items, and create a more serene environment.
  • Creative pursuits: Embrace your creative side by trying out spring-themed arts and crafts. Whether it’s painting landscapes inspired by nature, crafting floral arrangements, or experimenting with seasonal recipes, engaging in creative activities can be both fun and therapeutic.
  • Yoga or outdoor exercise: Practice yoga outdoors or take your workout routine outside to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Moving your body in nature enhances your sense of well-being and invigorates your spirit.

Seek professional help when needed: Don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist, counselor, or healthcare provider if you’re struggling with persistent or severe mental health symptoms. Seeking professional help is a proactive step toward prioritizing your well-being. “Learn about ways to get help and find a health care provider or access treatment,” suggests the National Institute of Mental Health. “If you or someone you know is struggling or having thoughts of suicide, call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org . In life-threatening situations, call 911.”

References:

  • https://mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america
  • https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder
  • https://www.psycom.net/seasonal-affective-disorder/spring-depression
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3779905/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4293164/