Springtime is a perfect opportunity to embrace our mental health and well-being and take steps to improve our overall health and happiness. What can get you out to smell the roses, listen to the birds and feel the warm air against your skin? Could it be hormones?
Our hormones are affected by sunlight and darkness. During the dark days of winter, melatonin increases, promoting more sleep and feelings of lethargy. This can certainly help a good nights sleep and keep us in a cozy mood by a warm fire during the cold winter months. Then, as the days get longer, the spring arrives, and our hormones change. Melatonin decreases, and serotonin increases leaving us with a surge of happiness and energy–Spring Fever.
Spring Fever can lead to an increase of outdoor play, exercise and even romance. A 2011 study published in Biological Psychiatry found that serotonin can make a person more receptive to intimacy and more eager to be part of an interdependent relationship. It’s a great time to reflect on how we are showing up in our relationships, what we can bring new life to and how we can express our love.
Non-violent communication, developed by Marshall Rosenberg, is a great process to enhance relationships, whether you are talking to yourself, speaking to a stranger, friend/relative or intimate partner. His website is packed with resources on various subjects. The process has to do with looking at needs, how they are and not being met in a relationship.
One process you can do with a partner to enhance the relationship and build intimacy is to ask your partner: What is one thing I am doing or not doing that is making your life less than wonderful? Ask them to share how this makes them feel and then ask what need is not being fulfilled. End by asking them what you can do to enrich their life.
And, if you are beginning a new relationship, Betty Martin has a chart called the Wheel of Consent you may want to check out under resources #2.
In addition to our hormones and relationships shifting with longer days and more serotonin, we can notice the budding of flowers. April showers bring May flowers. And, with flowers comes an array of color and fragrance. Take some time to pause and take in the surrounding beauty this spring. Research has shown that these pauses to focus on natural beauty and scenery can actually improve our eyesight and reduce the risk of eyestrain. We can certainly use that with all our computer times these days–at least I can.
Plus, all the colors can improve our mental health and well-being. Green for calming, growth and renewal. Yellow for boosting our mood is often associated with feelings of optimism and hope. Pink promoting feelings of relaxation and peace is often associated with love and compassion. Blue is a cool color. As we look up at the sky on a clear spring day, we can feel tranquility and serenity. Purple, with its rich luxurious tones, offers us creativity and spirituality. So much therapy simply by looking at nature. I love surrounding myself with flowers at this time of year.
As our eyes may enjoy the beauty, our noses are being affected by the fragrances of all the new growth, especially the flowers. Scientists are studying the psychological impact of flowers on human relations and discovering a number of key components. “Dr. Etcoff’s group at Harvard has shown that flowers feed compassion, chase away anxieties, create positive feelings at home, and provide a boost of energy and enthusiasm at work.” And Dr. Ulrich’s group at Texas A&M found flowers in the office increased workers’ creativity. All the more reason to plant extra flowers this year.
Another impact on our health with the increase of daylight and warmer weather is activity. Some of us may be taking off the boots and putting on the running sneakers, while others may be dusting off their bikes and pumping the tires for the first ride of the season. I can’t wait to try kayaking this year.
However, there may be some of us that feel like exercise is just not our thing. A great workaround for this is to shift away from the word exercise and consider doing things that bring you joy, which can also increase your heart rate, such as dancing. And, if it feels easier to offer an act of kindness, maybe help a neighbor out. Or think of exercise as a game. This kind of play can bring you joy and laughter plus create physiological changes in your brain that will lead to a greater sense of well-being and confidence which can certainly help your social life.
If you still feel stuck with motivation or feeling like you are not catching the joyful wave of Spring Fever, consider counseling. Not all counseling is alike, so you may want to explore learning the different types and what is best for you. I have worked with an integrative model and find that to help those who are stuck with patterns that have been going on for a long time. I also find that once you understand things and there is little change happening, you may need more of a body/brain approach, such as Brainspotting. Other possibilities can be explored as well. Whatever you choose, know you matter, and some support is deserved.
Lastly, sometimes people will turn to us because we are healed and moving forward in our life and they need support. Supporting others can actually benefit our mental health as well, as long as we do not do it at the expense of ourselves.
Sitting and bearing witness to another person can have several advantages for your mental health, including the development of empathy and compassion, a greater sense of connection to others and the practice of mindfulness. By actively listening and being present with others, you can also gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your own experiences, which can further contribute to your overall mental well-being.