Look Out! Emotional Changes Coming: What The Change of Seasons Could Mean for Your Mental Health

Look Out! Emotional Changes Coming: What The Change of Seasons Could Mean for Your Mental Health

Do you ever feel yourself longing for summer? To feel the warm sun kiss your face as you peer out onto another perfect summer sunset? Each season spins a new wheel of feelings and emotions encompassed within itself.  It’s odd to think of emotions being connected to seasons, but for many—to include myself, that’s just how it feels. 

  • The budding excitement of spring and all the new that comes with it. 
  • The swift and breezy summer comes along to sweep you away into its haze. 
  • And just like that—it’s autumn again. The leaves are falling, and yet a strange spice of excitement lingers in the air, carrying us into winter. 
  • As winter begins, the calmness of the world sets in, and I begin my own personal hibernation to bring me to spring. 

When new seasons approach, what do you find yourself feeling? Have you ever sat down with yourself to see what emotions may rise as each season comes and goes?

Mental Health by the Seasons

Often emotions are tied to seasons. Just as the seasons go by- so do the emotions. Maybe it’s that you get more anxious because it’s almost Christmas and none of the shopping is done. Maybe you become calmer as the spring winds blow through your house, giving you just the spring-cleaning kick you needed.

The way seasons impact human beings has been noticeable, but wasn’t recognized as a condition treatable by medical professionals until 1980. Sherri Melrose, a prominent physician noted that we are much more productive in the warmer months and more dormant in the colder months. With this discovery, it was found that the different levels of light during different seasons can impact the natural levels of serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness, and melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness which helps with the timing of your circadian rhythms and sleep. 

In fact, a study (Yang et al, 2010) was conducted using health related internet searches from various locations throughout the world. What was identified was a trend of seasonal depression that was mirrored opposites for northern and southern hemispheres. This trend followed similar patterns to the seasonal changes felt throughout those areas—noting that those in higher latitudes were more susceptible to the seasonal changes. 

So why wouldn’t we be more sensitive to the seasonal changes felt around us? Recent studies from The University of Toronto Scarborough shows a significant connection to emotion and lighting. Why is this so important? As seasons change, the amount and type of light that can be felt and seen changes too, thus impacting our mood. In fact, lighting can impact your senses- taste, sight, speech, etc.. and how you interpret things such as spices, visuals, and even words! 

Just as the seasons come and go, so do the emotions. As each season comes to the end, reflection is often helpful for fully understanding the trajectory of the season. This can be said with emotions as well.

Emotions in the Winter

During winter months, the hours of daylight are limited, and this can lead to an imbalance of chemicals produced by the brain. This can often present as a change in mood and sleep patterns. Those who are sensitive to seasonal changes may also notice a change in appetite and difficulties in concentration. Exercising, staying social, and getting outside during peak sunlight hours are all great ways you can help combat the adverse effects of seasonal changes on your emotions. 

While positive emotions are more likely to decline in the winter, by taking a few preventative measures, you can help keep yourself both mentally and physically healthy. Some of my more favorite winter activities that help keep me mentally and physically healthy include snowmobiling, hiking, sledding, making baked goods, and spending time with people I care about.

Emotions in the Spring

When the seasons change from winter to spring, more sunlight can be seen and felt during the daylight hours. Because of this, our bodies will naturally absorb more vitamin D which has been shown to improve mood. In the spring months, Google has even reported that people typically have more positive related search queries when compared to the winter months.  Often, people will feel a recharge of energy in the spring, which may be closely related to longer days, more sunlight, and new spring growth. The spring months can be a great time to explore your surroundings, find a new cafe, or find a nice bike trail. No matter where your location is, the spring time seems to offer new experiences that we can take with us into other seasons. 

Emotions in the Summer

During the summer months; days are long, nights are hot, and this can bring a new set of emotions to the mix. Many times our emotions to the seasons are related to years past experiences. For many people, 18 scholastic years are spent with summers off, long days at the pool, and of course the occasional water balloon fight– But as we become adults, fewer are able to experience this type of leisure. With less time for leisure, but the same excitement for the summer months, you may find yourself feeling unsatisfied. In the book, The Emotional Calendar by Dr. John R. Sharp, he talks about managing your expectations as each season approaches. During the summer months, take time to set goals; but in doing so- make sure you are being realistic with your expectations for yourself. Summer is the perfect time to slow down and experience the local nightlife, try out a new recipe, or even visit the local farmers market. 

Emotions in the Fall

With the end of summer, fall is here. For many, fall is a wonderful time to get out and visit a haunted house, corn maze, or even a pumpkin patch– But for some, fall can be a time where emotions seem to get the best of us. Is this because it’s associated with going back to school? Preparing for all of the holidays? The seasonal school concerts, the winter bazar, the annual bake sale? It can all add up– and sometimes the results don’t always make sense to us, leaving our emotions in a tornado of confusion. 

During the fall months, it’s important to remember that the days are becoming shorter and the nights seem to come quicker. Just the same as winter, these seasonal changes can impact your mood and sleep which can heighten certain emotions. 

It’s easy to forget these things, but when you can make some time for a warm cuppa tea and a journaling session. Writing can help you understand your emotions and provide a reference to the emotions you experience during each season.

Mental Health Through the Year

One season cannot begin until another ends. When one emotion passes, it is important to reflect by using what your new season has brought you. Like the wheel of seasons, emotions have a wheel just the same— but the wheel cannot spin unless reflection upon the end of each emotion happens. This is what keeps us moving forward. 

We have ALL been there, wishing for the warm summer glow to hold us, but wishing for summer when its winter won’t make the seasons move faster. But—you should enjoy your current season because the spring flowers will not bloom without the winter’s snow. Everything takes time, even you. Your season will spin again, and with that comes the grid of emotions encompassed within. 

A Note About Treatment

If managing your emotion through the seasons becomes too difficult, there are various treatment options including cannabis, CBD, antidepressants, light therapy, increased vitamin D intake, and counseling to name a few. It is important to remember that before making any changes that could impact your health including your mental health, consulting a professional is always advised and of best practice. 

Marelich, W. (2014, March 18). Spring seasons bring feelings of happiness? Retrieved from https://www.ocregister.com/2014/03/18/spring-season-brings-feelings-of-happiness/

Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches, Depression Research and Treatment, vol. 2015, Article ID 178564, 6 pages, https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/178564

Sharp, John. (2011).  The Emotional Calendar: Understanding Seasonal Influences and Milestones to Become Happier, More Fulfilled and In Control of Your Life.  NY: Times Books.

  1. (2014, February 19). New research shows the way a room is lit can affect the way you make decisions. Retrieved November 21, 2020, from https://media.utoronto.ca/media-releases/education/new-research-shows-the-way-a-room-is-lit-can-affect-the-way-you-make-decisions/

Yang AC, Huang NE, Peng CK, Tsai SJ (2010). Do Seasons Have an Influence on the Incidence of Depression? The Use of an Internet Search Engine Query Data as a Proxy of Human Affect. PLOS ONE 5(10): e13728. https://doi.org/10

About the author

Carly Reuter

Carly works with foster children in Washington state. She believes art is a way to express what words sometimes can’t and is passionate about art through the lens of cannabis. She also would love to see the cannabis industry to be taken seriously!

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Look Out! Emotional Changes Coming_ What The Change of Seasons Could Mean for Your Mental Health

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