How Spring Opens the Mind

The Atlantic:

This time of year brings out humanity’s loosey-goosey side. For Easter, Czech people douse each other in cold water as part of an ancient fertility ritual. South Asians pelt each other with colored powered as a celebration of the triumph of good over evil. Washingtonians gawk at pink trees and listen to jazz while sitting on the grass in their pinstripes.

This kind of thing can be cathartic after a winter’s worth of suffering, but there’s evidence that it might be good for you, too.

We’ve long known that cold weather can dampen spirits. Depression that returns during the winter months each year—seasonal affective disorder—goes by the extremely apt acronym “SAD.”

Warm weather doesn’t really have the opposite effect, though. A number of studies, including one based on 20,818 observations in Dallas, Texas, found that there was no significant correlation between mood and temperature.

But there is evidence that winter creates a pent-up demand for nice days, so that when they finally arrive, at least at first, they make us feel measurably better. There’s something about seeing sun for the first time after months of “wintry mix” that revs up mood and makes us more mentally sharp and open-minded. In the wise words of Robin Williams, spring is nature’s way of saying “let’s party”—to the brain, as well as to the Neighborhood Aloha Barbeque Organizing Committee.

For a study published in 2005 by Psychological Science, researchers put volunteers recruited through newspaper ads through a series of tests to gauge how the weather and the amount of time they spent outside affected their mood, their memory, and how receptive they were to new information.

Read the whole story: The Atlantic

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