If you ask anyone, they will tell you that they favor a specific season over another. Or they may tell you that they have one favorite season overall. This is mainly because we innately have a cognitive and emotional shift with each season change. Summer or fall may bring someone more joy and happiness, while winter results in someone feeling more sad or lonely. Studies have shown that during the fluctuations of seasons, your brain may react to the change in many different ways.
Let us begin with the fall season, considering it is right around the corner. Fall is consumed of beautiful days, cozy evenings, and the gorgeous foliage color pallet. You may think of the crisp leaves crunching beneath your feet, a warm mug of cider cupped between your palms, or the delight of picking your favorite apples or pumpkin from the patch. These comforting traits of fall most likely result in people feeling happy, cozy, and content with life. However, the fall is the start of shorter days, which means less sunlight. This has been known to cause hypersomnia in some people. Hypersomnia is the technical term for oversleeping. Although you may think more hours of sleep is benefiting you, hypersomnia typically affects our quality of sleep and our deep sleep cycles, which simply means more hours does not equal better sleep. The UV light works hand in hand with our circadian rhythm in order to optimize our sleep cycle. When the days become shorter, resulting in less UV light, the fall fatigue sets in and begins to cut into the sleep cycle. However, the end of the summer begins to have a positive affect on our brains by not having to use as much energy to cool our bodies down from heat. Therefore with this excess energy, fall is friendlier on our memory and problem solving abilities.
Winter is unfortunately deemed as the least favorite season for most. It is probably not a coincidence that people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the winter months. Maybe this is why people love to feel the joy of the holiday season, in order to take their minds off of the dreary darkness, and relentless cold. However, our bodies do undergo some chemical changes during these months that can explain the persistent melancholy. The change in light levels during the winter has a negative impact on our circadian clock. Our circadian clock tells us when to feel sleepy and go to bed, and when to wake up in the morning based off of the sun setting and rising. When our circadian clock is not in equilibrium that means the biological hormones our bodies use to put us to sleep and wake us up are also no longer in balance. Without accurate amounts of a particular hormonal release, we can experience a lack of temperature regulation, slower metabolism, and mood swings. It has been studied that people actually produce less serotonin during the winter, resulting in lower moods and feelings of well being.
The spring brings a sense of new beginnings, as the flowers and vegetation begin to bloom again, you begin to see the glimpse of longer and sunnier days ahead. As these days get longer and the weather gets warmer, we inevitably begin to become more active then in the winter months. We get motivated to "spring clean" and get rid of that extra winter clutter. More sunlight throughout the day is correlated to better moods, since vitamin D acts as an instant mood booster.
Lastly, the season of endless warm days filled with happiness and sunshine, summer. The summer allows for a lot of external stimulus, which can result in our brain being more active in the summer months. This time of year we may feel more willing to do more things and get more things done, mainly due to the motivatingly long and bright days. Due to all of the fun and distractions that summer brings, it is known that learning and retention are at their lowest during these months. Although the warm long days in the beginning of summer has a positive affect on our moods, the warmer it gets throughout these months actually begin to have the opposite affect. The unbearable hot months of July and August tend to fog up our positive moods, and have us ready for the next season shift.
Certainly everyone is different and have different internal experiences when it comes to season changes. However, it is important to understand how you personally react to these season changes on a biological level. It will help you stay on top of potential mood shifts, and hopefully result in maintaining a healthy emotional balance throughout the whole year, no matter the season.