Our environments, to varying degrees, always have an effect on us. If we can learn to be more conscious of that, we can be on the lookout for certain environments that have an adverse effect on our well-being. The weather’s impact on mood can be challenging to prove, as most people spend about 93% of their time inside (in industrialized countries such as the United States). This disconnect from the outside world and nature severely lessens the effect of weather on your mood.
Many researchers have conducted studies in order to better understand the link between weather and mood. They have found that about seventy-two degrees is the optimal temperature for optimal mood. As temperature increases or decreases from this number, moods can begin to darken. Moderate warm weather is associated with outside sports, activities, and the feeling of being “alive” and energetic as you soak up the sun’s rays. Through the vitamin D in the rays, sunlight has also been found to boost the level of serotonin in your body. Warm weather has also been linked to higher cognitive and reasoning skills.
Researchers have found a connection between high temperature and violent behavior. At the very least, most people can become cranky and irritable if the weather is too hot. According to several law enforcement agencies, a more severe response to long periods of high temperature has been connected to higher crime rate.
Colder, darker days prove to have a negative effect on mood, especially with prolonged exposure. The feelings of depression and sluggishness can creep up as the day’s thunderstorms and dark skies often instill a sense of oppression. With the cold weather, people are less energetic and potentially more introverted.
Melatonin vs. Serotonin
Chemically speaking, melatonin is released into the body through the pineal gland when the eyes register darkness, aiding with your sleep rhythm. Serotonin is produced and released into the body when the eyes register light, heightening your mood level and alertness. This certainly explains why the darker, stormier days can make you feel tired or sluggish, and why if it’s sunny outside, if you are in a dark room all day, you can feel a lack of energy.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real disorder that effects up to 10% of Americans each year during the winter months. This disorder causes depression in the individual when there is less daylight during specific months.
Without the balance of sunlight to counter the night and stormy days, the body’s biological clock, which regulates sleep, mood, and hormones, can become out of sync. Fatigue, depression, and lack of concentration are just a few side effects. In more extreme SAD cases, the person can use light therapy. The person is put in a room with strong ultraviolet fluorescent lights which mimics sunlight, which aids the body’s biological rhythm in rebalancing itself.
Changing the Forecast
Being aware of the effect of weather on your mood will give you the power to keep those cloudy skies in perspective, while reminding you to take advantage of the sunny ones to the fullest extent. Researchers have found that spending thirty minutes in the sun is enough time to improve your mood and rebalance serotonin levels. Allowing yourself a little sunny vacation during those long winter months can be just the biological rejuvenation you need to jump back into things with renewed energy. Not permitting the cloudy days to get you too down is another way to battle the weather blues. Attitude and perspective go a long way towards a healthy body and mind. Appreciating a stormy day for its beauty, and a sky full of charged energy, can be a way to invite the weather, no matter how dark, to affect your mood in a positive way.