By Margo Graf
In all fairness, our “winter” of 2019/2020 was a fairly moderate season. Only a few days made it below freezing, and we enjoyed rather warm temperatures throughout the holiday season and New Year. February felt more or less like the beginning of spring. Mornings were filled with birdsongs, neighborhood dogs were out chasing squirrels, and blooming flowers lined mailboxes. It appeared as if North Carolina weather was once again all over the place–consistently confused per usual.
At least now we see more daylight and can truly enjoy patio weather. A little vitamin D goes a long way, for both yourself and the world around you. It is amazing the effect sun has on the environment. For example, the art of photosynthesis is nothing to bat an eye at. Plants convert sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water into food, releasing oxygen in the process. As plants start to grow in the spring, they pull carbon out of the atmosphere. This is an important environmental service–take a deep breath, and thank your nearest plant. Plants do us a favor by taking in around 25 percent of the carbon emissions we produce–absorbing more than 100 gigatons of carbon through photosynthesis each spring. Because of this, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere drops each spring and summer. (Naturally, it rises in the winter, when most plants are not growing.) But beware: with full blooms en route, we will need to take shelter from the pollen cyclone headed for every exposed nook and cranny.
And although allergy season is about to be upon us, it is nevertheless safer than flu season which typically peaks between December and February, tapering off during the spring. Dry air is a culprit in this transition. Cold temperatures create a drop in humidity, and indoor heating only adds to the dryness of the air. This leads to cracked skin and dry nasal cavities, which creates irritated sinuses, nosebleeds, and a greater risk of getting sick. You know that annoying mucus in your nose? Well believe it or not, it is your friend. Mucus is designed to trap viruses, but when it dries up, you are more likely to catch something heavy, like the flu. As the weather warms and more humidity enters the picture, that mucus is back in action. And as the season wears on, not only can you depend less on lotion, you can probably put away the tissues (unless the pollen has caught up to you).
Not only should we be healthier with our sun greeting us earlier and staying around longer, we will also be in better moods! Spring brings a little more fun sun energy flowing through us. The added flair of plants and flowers also help form a smile. In fact, a 2008 study of hospital patients found that having flowers in the room made people feel more positive and reduced their pain and anxiety. Another study from Rutgers University found that when participants were presented with a bouquet of flowers, it resulted in what scientists call a “true smile” a full 100 percent of the time. Seeing flowers had both “immediate and long-term effects” that resulted in better moods for days afterward. So in case you needed a reason to go for a stroll across town–here it is. Enjoy the happy plant effect, the warm sun, and the cleaner air.
And if you needed more encouragement to get out and take a walk around Main Street, here you go: a lack of ventilation can lead to an unhealthy concentration of indoor pollutants from products that have cleaning fumes, stoves (especially gas ones), and certain furniture and building materials. And since winter has the highest rates of indoor pollutants like nitrogen oxide (a 2016 study of unventilated stove use in homes found) there is even more reason to get out and detox your system! Spring brings the perfect opportunity to throw open those windows, find a nice spot under a tree, and enjoy the new season upon us.