Did you know that for some people dealing with depression or mental illness, it's often spring, not winter, that's the hardest time of year?

Why? It's complicated. It might be something about how sunlight affects our hormones. Or some connection to allergies and inflammation. Or it could also be cultural — spring comes with a lot of pressure to feel cheerful, and nothing makes you feel worse than being told to be happy when you just can't.

With that in mind, spring is basically the perfect time (other than all the time) to practice a little self-care.


Here are 12 springtime things that might inspire you if you (or your loved one) are feeling down as the season rolls in:

1. The rush of going over your budget in the garden section of Home Depot.

Image from Celeste Lindell/Flickr.

There's nothing like getting down and dirty with some potting soil. Even better, studies have shown that having plants in your home can improve productivity and mood!

2. Walking around in baseball gear two weeks before the first game of the season.

"Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd!" Image from Leon Halip/Getty Images.

One study from the University of Kansas suggested that being a sports fan could help buffer us from bouts of depression.

3. Napping is just more enjoyable when it's done in the sun. It's, like, a fact.

Mmmmmm. Image from Ewen Roberts/Flickr.

According to the CDC, a fourth of people are vitamin D deficient, which some studies link to depression and fatigue. So cuddle up and take in those rays (and maybe invest in some supplements if that's what you're into).

4. There's no better time to take your bikes out on the road!

Just be sure to wear a helmet! And dodge the potholes. Image from Nelson L/Flickr.

Multiple studies have shown that regular exercise can help get those endorphins pumping.

5. Hitting the park with all your friends (and everyone else on the planet, apparently)...

Image by David Orban/Flickr.

Pack a picnic lunch, a frisbee, or your favorite book, and just relax on a sprawling lawn together.

6. ...and then thinking of the perfect April Fool's Day pranks to play on each other!

Either this is a prank, or that child is about to destroy us all. Image from Lars Andersen/Wikimedia Commons.

...of course, then you'll spend the whole day worried they're about to do the same to you.

7. Sit outside with your dog or volunteer at a local shelter. Sometimes caring for a furry friend is the best kind of self-care.

Happy dogs who are covered in mud. A lot of mud. And who want to jump up on you right now.

Not to mention, hanging out with your best animal pal can help relieve anxiety and improve your mood.

8. In spring, people watching becomes 1,000% more entertaining!

Image from Haritz_Euskal Dantzari Taldea/Flickr.

Even if you're feeling down, sitting outside and watching buskers, performers, and strangers pass by on the street can sometimes put a smile on your face.

9. If you're near D.C., take some time to watch the cherry blossoms fall (and pretend you're in Japan)...

And then sweep up the two metric tons of cherry blossom petals off your front porch. Image from Nathan Wong/Flickr.

10. Or, if you're on the West Coast, enjoy the 1.5 months before California turns completely brown again...

Don't worry, it'll be back to "Mad Max: Fury Road" soon enough. Image from tdlucas5000/Flickr.

11. ... or, if you're in the South, go see the entire state of Texas turn blue.

Image from Earl McGehee/Flickr.

Any of these options are good — nature walks can help lower stress and improve mental well-being. Wherever you are, find a park or nature center and go for a long walk.

12. Spring brings beautiful flowers, bright sunlight, and warm weather, but one of the best things is how it can inspire us to take care of ourselves.

Image from Eneas de Troya/Flickr.

And if you're the one who's depressed, I know it's hard, but there's never been a better time to focus on yourself and what you need. Take each day as you can. Reach out to friends and doctors if you need to. Remember to treat yourself well.

Everyone deserves a happy spring.

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