The FloQ

Travel Insights Blog

The FloQ

Travel Insights Blog

Here’s how to tune into your environment this spring

Apr 2, 2024

Katya Lopatko



25 min

Whether you’re heading on spring break or staying home, paying attention to your environment can help you get into the spring spirit, giving your brain a boost of good vibes.

Unsplash / Prescott Horn

My first act as president would be to bring back a full week of spring break for all adults. Consider this a sort of campaign platform. Ridiculous, you say? Hear me out.

• It’s the tail end of winter. We’re exhausted and need a pick-me-up to get through the last push to summer months.

• This is basically the same logic as spring break for school children (and teachers): we’re far enough from winter holidays, but still soo far from summer vacation. Some time off is necessary to recharge and continue to function as productive adult humans in the pre-summer months.

• If kids, who are young and full of life, need a week off in March, then full-time corporate girlbosses with back pain and lots of adult responsibilities definitely deserve one too.

• As long as the US makes us file our own taxes, we should get at least one full paid week off — a few days to get them done, a few days to emotionally recover, and a few days to vibe and enjoy our lives, knowing that a refund is (hopefully) coming in hot.

In the absence of a state-mandated adult spring break, we must make do with what we have. Many of us get restless around this time, and even if we can’t swing a week on a tropical beach, it’s worth it to try to get out of the winter nest and explore a new environment this time of year. Spring is traditionally a time of renewal and rebirth, and there’s no better way to celebrate the world’s (and your own) coming back to life than a change of scenery.

It’s pretty obvious that our surroundings affect our mental state, from the physical design of a home and neighborhood, to the overall climate. Beyond these specific attributes, just changing up your surroundings can be a powerful antidote to the monotony of the grind. No matter where you go, when you get out of your usual bubble, even for a little while, you tend to return with a fresh perspective on your familiar spaces and habits.

With longer, warmer days, blooming flowers, lots of wildlife, and the return of seasonal cultural events, spring is the perfect time for a foray outside your usual habitat. No matter where, and for how long, you go, consider some of the ways that environment can affect your mental state to craft the best DIY spring break experience for yourself.

1. Here comes the sun

Unsplash / Anders Jildén

The gloomy days of winter can leave us feeling a little SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder, that is, a type of depression caused by seasonal change. The symptoms look a lot like regular depression — low energy, negative thoughts and feelings — but they’re triggered by changing levels of sunlight. Most affected people experience SAD during the winter, though summertime SADness is also a thing (cue Lana del Rey). Most likely to experience SAD are young people, those who live far from the equator and thus experience more seasonal fluctuation, and those with preexisting mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and bipolar.

Being SAD is never fun, but at least with seasonal depression, you have a clear reason for your symptoms, and a pretty reliable end date in sight. While light therapy, vitamin D supplements, therapy and medication can get you through the winter, there’s nothing like the longer days of springtime to jump-start your summer brain, higher levels of sunlight boosting serotonin levels, bringing a better mood.

To get the benefits, you actually have to see the sun, of course. If you’re stuck in a dreary environment where spring seems to never come, your brain might appreciate a trip down south. You don’t need to book yourself into a Miami Beach resort to get full benefits — just a few days of warmth and sun can work wonders. If you catch yourself daydreaming of bikinis and martinis while your toes slowly go numb in a pair of wool socks, consider taking a quick weekend trip — or even just a day — to the nearest, warmest place. Keep an eye out for cheap fare deals on direct flights to your closest tropical locale, or look into road or train trips in your area. With sunlight, it’s all relative, and a little can go a long way. Even just making a point of spending some time outside on a sunny day can boost your mood — no travel required.

2. Green and blue spaces

If sun is in short supply, you can still boost your mood, and even maybe improve your overall health, by spending some time in the great outdoors.

Unsplash / Mike Benna

There’s been lots of talk recently about the benefits of green spaces — access to nature, trees, flowers, grass, and all that good green stuff. A less common term, blue spaces can also do a lot for the human brain and body — even a view of water from a window can reduce stress and improve your mood.

From formidable forests to humble city parks, spending time in green spaces has been shown to alleviate anxiety and depression, lower cortisol levels (aka the stress hormone), and be generally correlated with better physical and mental health, even when controlling for typical influences like age and socioeconomic class. Blue spaces also offer a natural source of stress relief and general wellbeing; around the world, people who live near coastlines and other bodies of water tend to report better mental and physical health.

Unsplash / Yender Gonzalez

The benefits rack up over time, favoring those who have regular access to green and blue spaces near them. If possible, try building some green and blue space into your routine — take a daily stroll through your neighborhood park, check your email in your garden or backyard, or try to make it out to a larger park or nature preserve on the weekends.

But just one foray can also boost your mood, and spring is the perfect time to do it, with lots of blooming trees, wildflowers, and even the occasional cute baby animal out and about. Plan a road trip to see the cherry blossoms or local wildflowers near you, or head to the woods for some forest bathing to soothe the mind and body.

3. Architecture of the mind

If trees aren’t your thing, no worries — you can still make your brain happy by leaving the house this spring. Take advantage of longer days and (hopefully) the energy that they bring and schedule an outing to an inspiring, energizing destination, whatever that means for you.

Guggenheim museum in Manhattan / Unsplash / Leslie Lopez Holder

Researchers agree that our built environments have major impacts on our minds. Our brains attune to the layout and appearance of the spaces we inhabit, creating both immediate and cumulative effects. For example, psychology professor Colin Ellard explores how buildings affect our emotions and thoughts — by measuring physiological responses like heart rate, he tracks the effects of different types of city blocks on pedestrians. As it turns out, monotonous facades (think big-box stores taking up whole blocks) make us feel bored, tired and disconnected, while variety (think small shops and restaurants with creatively designed storefronts) draw us in, energizing and inspiring us. The insides of buildings can also stimulate a range of positive and negative mental states, from confidence, security and creativity to anxiety, disorientation, overstimulation and boredom.

Unsplash / Oleksandr Gamaniuk

These effects kick in whenever you enter a space or environment, and usually wear off once you leave. So, if you’re looking for a boost of good vibes, try seeking out some spaces that you find beautiful and inspiring, or just feel good spending time in. This might be a public space like a museum or library, a religious space open to the public, like an old church, a certain coffee shop or neighborhood, or even a beautifully designed and curated department store.

For something a little more involved, take a weekend trip to a city you love, or would love to discover, and plan out a few destinations to hang out in. You could always combine other activities with a little architectural tour, like shopping, going out to dinner, visiting a museum or library, going to a spa, seeing a play in a cool theater, or even staying in an architecturally renowned hotel. As a bonus, get creative and try recording your impressions with photos, sketches, notes, journal entries, etc. Who knows — you might get a burst of creativity from the space itself, so why not bring a notebook along?

4. Sensory stuff

Springtime travel is all about indulging the senses, our unique window to the world around us. We all have our sensory preferences and pet peeves, whether you're neurodivergent with specific sensory needs or just crave nice sensory experiences from time to time, whether it’s your favorite music, food, or a warm day lounging on the beach.

Unsplash / rakhmat suwandi

When we travel, we usually surrender some control over our environment — harsh lighting, airport crowds, and crying babies are just part of the process. But with a little research, self-awareness and savvy planning, you can minimize the most irritating bits and design your springtime escapade to be a sensory playground.

Start by reflecting on what tends to bother you most when you travel, and how you can avoid it. Airport chaos? Pack some noise-canceling headphones and an eye mask for the flight. My personal tip: wear a baseball cap if you get visually overstimulated — it cuts out some of the harsh overhead light and narrows down your visual field. Hate sleeping in a stuffy room or being woken up by traffic at 4am? Stay in a calmer neighborhood, read reviews carefully — especially negative ones, to see what bothered others and whether it would be a deal breaker for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out directly to ask about specific features and amenities.

On the flip side, why not actively seek out some sensory delights? Whether it’s a peaceful park, a tranquil hot spring, a cool museum, an eclectic bar, a techno rave, or even a crazy roller coaster, spring is the time to wake up from our winter slumbers by tapping into your favorite sensory stimulation.

5. Spring clean your brain

When you get home from a trip, it may be tempting to toss your suitcase in the corner and dive back into daily life, but consider unpacking right away — and embracing a bit of spring cleaning while you’re at it.

Unsplash / Spacejoy

There's a psychological reason behind this seasonal ritual: as winter's darkness fades, we crave a lighter, airier atmosphere. Clutter, like a cozy nest for colder months, gives us a sense of security, but spring invites more space and movement. By decluttering, we symbolically welcome a season of growth and renewal.

Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a chore; it can even be therapeutic, a step into the new season, especially if travel plans are on hold. From organizing closets to refreshing decor, small changes can breathe new life into your living space. Consider incorporating elements of traditional spring equinox rituals, like water or cleansing incense, or create your own.

Research suggests that clutter contributes to stress and lowers overall mental functioning, while an organized environment promotes calmness and productivity. Other design elements like colors, patterns, and lighting further influence your mental state. Experiment with arranging your space according to traditional principles like feng shui, or simply follow your instincts. There’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all way to arrange a space — don’t let the Marie Kondo industrial complex tell you otherwise! Some studies show that clutter can promote creativity, while an organized desk makes you think inside the box and follow the rules, so as always, do what works for you.

Unsplash / Ella Jardim

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