Ah, the summer. In the Netherlands, it's a whole event. The parks are crowded with groups barbecuing and people in bathing suits sunbathing and enjoying until the last minute of sun, strangers making conversation in public places, people exercising in the streets, (even more) bicycles on the bike paths, and many people in a good mood. The streets are full until late at night, as the sun only sets at 10 pm.
I am originally from Brazil where the sun is present all year around, so I didn't understand the euphoria of the Dutch when the weather would start getting better. In fact, I was even relieved that for the first time I wasn't always sweating and I was able to wear winter clothes. But that was until I spent an entire year here and experienced all the seasons at once. Autumn in the Netherlands is awful, and winter is even worse with its gray days and constant rain. People are grumpier, we can't enjoy nature without getting drenched and cold, riding a bike gets really uncomfortable, and we spend weeks on end without seeing a trace of the sun. Weekend outings are limited, and we end up spending a lot of time at home. But the Dutch are used to it. The rain doesn't stop them from doing anything. They don't know any different. As for us, Brazilians and Portuguese, we suffer adapting to this weather when we get here. We can decently withstand the cold, but the lack of sun really affects us.
So when the weather starts to get better, we become as euphoric as the Dutch! After almost a year, we put on light clothes, feel the warm sun on our skin, and tan those pale legs. We enjoy the feeling of “finally!”. We suddenly feel more social, more active, wanting to get out and move. The time has come to put all our plans into action!
But what brings this summer euphoria?
It is not the temperature itself that elevates our mood and energy, but what is associated with temperature.
Vitamin D is a very relevant factor. Sun exposure is how we produce this vitamin, which is related to improving mood and decreasing the risk of depression.
The sun also regulates our internal biological clock. In countries with harsher winters, this clock does not work as well during this period, as our brain does not receive the signal to wake up and thus we feel more tired. As the days get longer, our brain receives this signal, and that's why we feel more active. And in general, people are happier when the days are long.
The heat also makes exercise more attractive, because we want to get out and spend the day outside. This helps to reduce anxiety and improve mood.
Some studies even show that heat can spark positivity and creativity, as well as improve some cognitive functions such as memory.
So if you find yourself feeling sad in winter, book a trip to a sunny place if you can, and when summer finally comes, enjoy all the benefits it brings!