Opinion | Let your attitude spring forward this spring

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Mark Capapas

A student with a dog introduces him to other people on the quad on April 22.

By Tara Pavithran, Columnist

I have been counting down the weeks until Daylight Saving Time ends essentially since it started. But when we were hit with more sunny days in February, everything got real. 

That one weekend, people were out on the Main Quad playing with their dogs, doing homework and just enjoying being on a picnic blanket. It was the textbook definition of a summer tease.

In a few weeks, we’ll be able to stay out past 5:30 p.m. and see the sun. Soon the days will get longer and warmer and the world will be utilizable for more time. Doing things after class in the actual daylight? No longer unthinkable. 

These instances seem minuscule, but they are the little joys in day-to-day life: Being outside, especially in nice weather, is an underrated mood booster.

Making time to be in nature is proven to have stress-reducing and calming effects. Too often, we spend our time at school or work in the constant company of other people, technology or both. Nature is a relaxing break from that — it simultaneously refreshes and soothes the mind. Many times, the negative emotions we feel are a result of overstimulation.

Additionally, the Mayo Clinic claims that sunlight levels correspond to serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation. It’s easy to think it’s as trivial as reduced sun exposure equating to a less upbeat mood, but as it turns out, Daylight Saving Time isn’t just falling back or springing forward twice in a calendar year. The change shifts our entire circadian rhythm during that eight-month period. 

This rhythm is responsible for the way our body responds to light cues in order to create a sleep schedule, which has direct impacts on mood and physiological rhythms. People may feel less motivated to work, challenge themselves or do anything outside of their comfort zones when the sky is gray and dark all the time.

Obviously, environmental circumstances won’t change any internal conflict that may exist. But given its tendency to affect the way certain moods are exacerbated, it’s crucial we are at least conscious of these effects. 

A lot of times, people overhype their anticipation of the change in weather only to not make any sort of lifestyle changes when it finally rolls around. It makes sense — we’ve had to adjust to sticking to an indoor routine for months now, and it overlaps with most of the academic year. 

So this springtime, make an effort to incorporate outdoorsy activities in your daily life. We know this weather doesn’t last long, and in the Midwest, the next snowstorm could very well be the day after a 60-degree-and-sunny day. We should be appreciating the moments while they last. 

Even without the cooperation of the weather, we can try to enjoy the great outdoors in the fall and winter seasons. Think about it: Dog owners are forced to take their dogs out on walks year round, and reap the benefits in the winter that make all the difference with dealing with the effects of seasonal affective disorder. They are said to have lower stress levels and overall be happier because of the companionship. 

While we can’t all have dogs, we can replicate a similar experience by making daily walks a part of our routine, and add the social aspect by getting friends and family involved. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the lonely and suffocating notions that come with self-imposed cabin fever. 

As the weather starts getting nicer, remember to do yourself a favor and actually go enjoy it. It’s time to experience the warmth of better health after such a long wait.

Tara is a freshman in LAS.

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