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The Truth Behind Spring Fever

March 16th, 2014 Seasonal

April showers bring May flowers, and along with them, spring fever. It's no joke: Spring fever is the combination of a renewed excitement for life and the search for love. According to Scientific American magazine, this phenomenon manifests itself in a flushed face, increased heart rate, loss of appetite, restlessness and daydreaming.

"Spring fever is not a definitive diagnostic category," Michael Terman, director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University Medical Center, told the magazine. "But I would say it begins as a rapid and yet unpredictable fluctuating mood and energy state that contrasts with the relative low [of the] winter months that precede it."

Less SAD in spring
Although it's been trumpeted for generations as a condition that inspires poetry, spring fever is real nonetheless. In fact, it appears most often in those with seasonal affective disorder. Those who have SAD find themselves depressed in the colder months, and are sometimes treated with sun lamps that expose them to UV light they're deprived of during shorter winter days.

According to the Chicago Tribune, increased daylight can cause chemical changes in the body, which in turn lifts one's spirits. Less light in winter also causes the body to produce more melatonin, a compound that increases sleep, which accounts for the lethargy that many experience during this time of the year. The significant difference in the amount of darkness from winter to spring drastically changes how much melatonin we produce, which in turn affects our outlook on life.

That may explain why the onslaught of spring transforms many people's moods from sluggish to rejuvenated, in part due to the longer days and increased sunlight.

The feel-good effect
Another factor that may contribute to the feverish feeling individuals have in April and May is the increased amount of physical activity that takes place when the weather warms up. Exercise is known to increase endorphins, which will put anyone in a good mood, the Mayo Clinic reported.

Endorphins are the "feel-good" neurotransmitters of the body, and exercise provides the platform that enables them to develop a better sense of well-being. Whether it's a successful day on the links or the high that runners often feel after they've completed a challenging course, endorphins are the substances that are usually at the heart of their satisfaction.

Getting regular exercise not only breeds self-confidence when people begin to look and feel better, but it can also lower stress to the degree that they get a more restful night's sleep. In turn, that reduces irritability, anxiety and stress levels that would otherwise contribute to mild depression.

In short, exercise can make people feel mellower, the Mayo Clinic reported. Once daily irritations start to subside and tensions dissipate, people tend to feel calmer and more clear-headed. They can focus more easily, and that results in a more optimistic outlook.

These symptoms and issues all fall under the umbrella of spring fever. A consistently elevated mood can affect even the most jaded cynic, so a heightened interest in love and romantic relationships is usually attributed - again, by poets - to the extra flush we feel when spring is upon us. And happily, no one's discovered a cure for it.