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10 Tips to beat Springtime Lethargy
In many ways Nature’s rhythm frequently affects our wellbeing and our physical condition more than we realize. Although these effects have been mitigated by modern achievements such as heating, electric lights and air conditioning, now in spring optimism prevails everywhere: accordingly most people actually also feel more alive and cheerful. Some of this has to do with very real physical changes caused by the increased amount of daylight: During spring our pulse increases; most people automatically sleep less and many of us are also less hungry than during the winter (during this time of the year that is also the reason we have an easier time to get rid of those few unnecessary pounds which the past months may have bestowed upon us). Studies demonstrate that children even grow faster in the spring than in the fall.
The primary causes for this additional pizzazz are the seasonally caused longer days. The more light our pineal gland is exposed to, the less melatonin it produces: Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our sleep-awake rhythm (for that reason long distance travelers frequently use melatonin pills as a proven antidote against jet lag). Additionally the increased exposure to light also increases the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin in our brain that makes us feel happy. Therefore during spring time both hormonal changes “create air under our wings”, so to speak and spur us on to tackle “springtime tasks”. During this time of the year many folks feel downright euphoric and full of energy.
Apparently on the other hand and especially during springtime paradoxically others tend to be rather more tired and lethargic. According to studies every other person exposed to the change of winter to spring is affected by this springtime lethargy. Older people and adolescents suffer more frequently from springtime lethargy, but women with low blood pressure also more frequently tend to feel listless during this time of the year. Research suggests that the body of people suffering from springtime lethargy simply has problems adjusting to the sudden weather changes accompanied by stronger temperature- and brightness fluctuations. Fortunately this usually does not last longer than 2 – 3 weeks, then the body has managed the adjustment and the condition generally improves again.
Spring is not entirely hazard-free, after all: Studies prove that the late-spring and early-summer suicide rate around the globe increases dramatically. Rather, one would expect that spring would tend to generate a feeling of optimism, after all in our colloquialism it represents a metaphor for hope, a new beginning and awakening. Apparently this is not the same for everybody. Researchers don’t entirely agree as to why this is the case. Some assume that more despondent people may have a problem putting up with the general elation surrounding them because it is not at all compatible with their own state of mind. When everybody around is merry and full of energy, those who are already depressed may potentially feel worse. And at some point they may be unable to endure this discrepancy any longer. Angela Schuh, Professor for Medical Climatology at Munich University writes: “The depressed no longer are able to rejoice, relish and be active. Since positive weather makes everyone around them feel positive and active, they feel particularly excluded and sad. Conversely, during dreary weather depressives experience something akin to relief because their fellow human beings also tend to be unmotivated and depressed.” However, another possible approach explaining this phenomena is based on the fact that this particular spring energy boost causes a special problem: To a depressed person it potentially delivers exactly that dram of energy he/she needed to commit suicide and that he/she was lacking during winter. After all, instead of a low, suicide does require a high energy level because it takes lots of determination.
Obviously there are also extreme cases of springtime depression, and hopefully you are not even close (in case you are, please continue reading here.
Here are 10 tips all easily and without an effort implemented and very effective in order to get ahead of the totally normal springtime lethargy as well as a light depressive state:
- Sounds mean, but in its effectiveness against springtime lethargy and even light depressions it has been scientifically well proven: Don’t sleep any longer than previously, rather set your alarm for half an hour earlier. Paradoxically it is a fact that too much sleep can exacerbate a depressed state of mind. On the other hand with 50% to 80% depressive patients (short-term) sleep deprivation causes an escalated mood improvement. The reason for this has not been entirely clear. One theory states that too much REM (Rapid Eye Movement) -sleep promotes a depressive mood. Since REM-phases primarily increase during the morning hours, particularly early rising tends to reduce the overall REM-sleep-dose. Abbreviated sleep will also cause your sleep phases to be deeper in the intermediate-term plus sleep is more restful altogether. 7 – 8 hours are ok - more are too many. Dealing with mood issues, adults sometimes even do better with 6 hours for a while – experiment a little in order to establish the sleep duration that proves to be best for you.
- While already on the subject of mean tips for the morning: Why don’t you try and finish your hot shower in the morning with a cold squirt? Or else begin the day right away with contrast showers. At first, it’ll cost you the initial overcoming of the shivers, but it gets the sleepy circulation going and enormously helps the vascular system with its needed challenge of adjusting to the changed temperatures. Afterwards you are truly awake, guaranteed!
- Exercise, daylight and fresh air are ideal in helping your body with the adjustment from winter to spring. That being the case, if at all possible take a brisk daily walk outside (it works best right away early in the morning). Maybe you can park the car a few roads away from the office, or get off the bus or the train a couple of stops prior to your destination and walk the rest of the way? That makes it easier for your body to adjust the inner clock.
- Now is the perfect time to open your windows wide and thoroughly air your place out! Every additional oxygen shower gives your brain a kick and expels the languor. Ideally perform a little breathing exercise in front of the window: To this end inhale deeply (about 5 seconds) and then exhale twice as long (approximately 10 seconds). While you are doing that, think about something enjoyable, like for instance your favorite place during your last vacation.
- As already mentioned, sunlight increases the neurotransmitter serotonin’s level that is being attributed with mood enhancement. Therefore, catch every ray of sun you can: How about at noon during beautiful weather a little picnic somewhere outside? That is much more beneficial for your soul than a heavy lunch in the cafeteria. The longer you can spend a spring day in the open the more it benefits not just your mood but your energy level as well.
- Mount your bike for a bicycle tour, throw yourself into garden work, and take a trip to exciting places in your vicinity. Anything taking you outside beneath the open sky is a great antidote against the springtime apathy. Even during a cloudy day it is still sufficiently light outside to inhibit your melatonin production and increase your serotonin release. And if the weather outside is just too unpleasant and gets in the way: maybe there is a botanical garden with large glass houses somewhere in the vicinity where you can go for a walk in the light among exotic plants?
- Get started with a spring cleanup- and de-clutter campaign! I have already extensively described the reasons why it generates happiness and even helps to overcome a depressed state of mind: http://www.ipersonic.com/blog_files/Spring-Cleaning-Decluttering-satisfies-and-releases-Energies.html Getting into gear requires a little effort but afterwards the whole thing turns into a no-brainer, I promise!
- While we are on the subject of de-cluttering: Go ahead, take a look into your inner self! Is there anything you may now just be better off to de-clutter? Little injuries or hurt feelings, a grudge at someone you are still carrying around or other negative things or feelings from the past? And, by the way, in this context de-cluttering does not only concern negative emotions one wants to deep-six but also “loose ends” still hanging about in one’s own life for instance because one hasn’t completed a task and has already put it off long enough, or because one has not conclusively clarified or discussed something with someone in order to avoid a conflict. Unproductive brooding, anger, maybe even hate, grief . . . just everything that hurts. Many psychological studies confirm that it can even make us physically ill when we can’t forgive insults or hurts by others but insist to bear them a grudge: Heart beat rate (HBR), blood pressure and other stress indicators significantly increased when participants in a study brooded about unresolved issues they thought they had with others. Maybe it is now your time to finally let go of this or the other?
- Whatever applies to early rising in the AM also pertains to the evening: Don’t immediately give in to your weariness when it appears to overcome you. Otherwise you run the risk of missing out on worthwhile activities and you shutting yourself off. Pleasant activities promote the release of serotonin almost as well as sun light. Meet with friends, go out, join a course that interests you or a sports club – everything that beats going to sleep in front of your TV at 9 PM!
- Last but not least: Sometimes it is permitted to give in to weariness – but only during the day and only briefly. By all means, in case you are very tired and an opportunity presents itself go ahead and take a short afternoon nap. But not longer than 30 minutes because otherwise your body again produces melatonin and that is counter productive. As long as it is not more than half an hour, short power napping can be very helpful in counter acting springtime lethargy and give you renewed momentum for the remainder of the day!
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This article was written by psychologist and book author Felicitas Heyne. She is the developer of the iPersonic personality test. Take the free personality test now and get in-depth career advice and life coaching from our unique iPersonic personality profiles!Similar articles in this blog:
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