Spring, the unsung season

Story highlights

  • Equinox means "equal night" of light and dark (roughly), and metaphorically, we should also spend more time in the light
  • Research suggests that the extended daylight can boost mood, well-being and energy

This essay is part of a column called The Wisdom Project by David Allan, editorial director of CNN Health and Wellness. The series is on applying to one's life the wisdom and philosophy found everywhere, from ancient texts to pop culture. You can follow David at @davidgallan. Don't miss another Wisdom Project column; subscribe here.

(CNN)Spring had long been my fourth favorite season.

No offense, spring, but you lack the best holidays, snow, swimming, falling leaves, fireworks and my birthday, for starters. Summer has a lock on beach getaways and frozen cocktails. Fall emits an electric energy and vibrant natural beauty.
    Even winter, with its cold temps and gray skies, has skiing and solid gift-giving traditions.
    Spring, on the other hand, always felt like a short, wet blip between egg nog and ice cream -- over before it started.
    But spring is my wife's favorite season, and since -- as she is the first to say -- she's always right, I had to rethink it. After doing some serious reflection and not-very-serious research, I've concluded that spring may be the most profound of the seasons. Its meaning and promise, and how to experience it, are worth dwelling upon.
    This is the season of hope -- that things will get better after they got worse. Change is a-comin', and it's going to be beautiful. Spring reminds us to appreciate what makes us happy by noticing its absence.
    "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant," wrote English poet Anne Bradstreet. "If we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."
    Spring signifies coming out of the darkness. We've tipped the balance from longer nights to longer days. Equinox means "equal night" of light and dark (roughly), and metaphorically, we should also spend more time in the light.
    There's even some science to the joy of spring. Research suggests that for many people, the extended daylight boosts mood, well-being and energy. Dopamine -- a neurotransmitter associated with attention, motivation, pleasure and mood -- seems to increase with more exposure to sunlight.
    It's also the time for spring cleaning and ridding your life of detritus, those things you don't need anymore and maybe some bad spirits. Decluttering has its own mental and metaphoric benefit.

    Happy New Year!

    Forget January resolutions. In some cultures and traditions, the start of spring is the start of the new year. It's a great time to draw a line in the sand, renew those long-term goals you may have already let slip. It's time to declare a fresh start!
    Because spring is as old as the planet, ancient religious traditions have evolved around its meaning. Spring is rebirth after the long death of winter, and traditional cultures didn't take the return of food and better weather for granted. They prayed for it.
    The luck-infused Chinese New Year is celebrated after the second full moon after the winter solstice and ends in a parade of dragons and fireworks that scare away the bad spirits.