Does the weather affect your mood

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Weather and Mood: Rainy With a Chance of Depression

I’m considering building an ark, because it feels as if it’s been raining for 40 days and 40 nights.

In one of the wettest, coldest Mays in Maryland’s history, highly sensitive types like myself are having difficulty not getting pulled into a depressive mood that often accompanies bad weather.

I am clearly affected by rain — especially when it rains consistently for weeks as it has this spring. And I know other people who are, too, so I thought I’d study why the extra precipitation alters the limbic system (emotional center) of the brain and review the research regarding mood and weather.

Studies That Link Mood and Weather

John Grohol, PsyD, founder and CEO of Psych Central, offers a great overview of the studies that exist on weather and mood. There is research that says weather has little to do with mood, he notes, but “the overall preponderance of evidence suggests that weather can have more than just ‘a little effect’ on you mood.”

Here are some of the studies Grohol presents.

The largest, published in 1974 in the journal Acta Paedopsychiatrica, involved 16,000 students in Basel City, Switzerland. In the study, 18 percent of the boys, and 29 percent of the girls, responded negatively to certain weather conditions, exhibiting symptoms of fatigue, dysphoric moods, irritability, and headaches.

In a small study published in 1984 in the British Journal of Psychology, a group of 24 men were studied over 11 days. It was determined that humidity, temperature, and hours of sunshine had the greatest effect on their mood. The finding on humidity was the most interesting to me. “High levels of humidity lowered scores on concentration while increasing reports of sleepiness,” the researchers wrote.

Finally, in a study published in Psychological Science in 2005, researchers followed 605 participants in three separate studies to determine the connection between mood and weather. They found that pleasant weather (a higher temperature or barometric pressure) was related to higher mood, better memory, and “broadened” cognitive style during the spring as subjects spent more time outside. The abstract states, “These results are consistent with findings on seasonal affective disorder, and suggest that pleasant weather improves mood and broadens cognition in the spring because people have been deprived of such weather during the winter.”

Warmer Isn’t Always Better

According to an analysis published in Emotion in 2008, much of the research indicates that warmer weather seems to bring cheerier moods.

But heat can also make people more aggressive.

In a study published in Science in 2013, researchers reported that as temperatures rose, the frequency of interpersonal violence increased by 4 percent, and intergroup conflicts by 14 percent. The same fluctuation in behavior occurred with extreme rainfall.

I’ve always found it curious why suicides spike in spring and summer. Isn’t that when depression is supposed to lift? Grohol mentions a comprehensive study review published in 2012 in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica that examined the literature on suicide seasonality between 1979 and 2009. As a group, the studies confirmed a seasonal pattern for both the Northern and Southern hemispheres: an increase in suicides during spring and early summer, and a decrease in autumn and winter months. In addition, the studies suggested that there is an especially strong pattern of suicide in the spring for men and older individuals, and for violent methods of suicide.

The ‘Happy Complex’ of Spring

In my blog post about spring depression and anxiety, I offered a few theories as to why moods dip in April and May: change and transition (which is harder on some of us), hormone fluctuation as we adjust to more sunlight, allergies and toxins in the air, and perhaps the “happy complex”: Everyone else is humming as they work in their garden, delighted that spring has arrived — and you feel that pressure to be happy as well, which makes you even more, well, unhappy.

Some people feel left out of the social interaction that happens more in spring, too. Experts believe that more suicides happen in spring because the warmer weather provides a person with the extra energy to pursue a suicidal plan that they didn’t have the energy to pursue during the winter months.

Weather and the Highly Sensitive Person

Weather is going to affect you more if you are a highly-sensitive person, as defined by Elaine Aron, PhD, in her best-seller, The Highly Sensitive Person. If you answer yes to these and most of the questions on Aron’s website, you’re probably in the club, which holds 15 to 20 percent of human beings. Are you easily overwhelmed by bright lights and noise? Do you startle easily? Do other people’s moods influence you? Does caffeine have a great effect on you?

Research has indicated that hypersensitive people are genetically different from folks who have a normal degree of sensitivity. This might explain why the rain or cold or heat affects some of us much more than others, and why some people would thrive in a humid, hot climate, while others would wilt. Your response to weather would depend on your sensitivity type.

What’s Your Weather Personality Type?

In a study published in Emotion in 2011, researchers defined weather-reactivity types by linking self-reported daily moods across 30 days with objective weather data. They found that there were four distinct types of people when it comes to reactions to weather. As they wrote in the abstract:

The types were labeled Summer Lovers (better mood with warmer and sunnier weather), Unaffected (weak associations between weather and mood), Summer Haters (worse mood with warmer and sunnier weather), and Rain Haters (particularly bad mood on rainy days). In addition, intergenerational concordance effects were found for two of these types, suggesting that weather reactivity may run in the family.

I know my weather type. I’m a Summer Lover and a Rain Hater. Without question, I am also a highly sensitive person, which makes my mood very vulnerable to the changes in the weather.

All Rain Haters and highly sensitive types are welcome on my ark.

Join Project Hope & Beyond, the new depression community.

The Effects of Winter on Moods

Whilst maintaining these things can take considerably more effort than during the warmer months, they can easily be achieved with some simple planning.

There is an old Norwegian/Swedish (origins are unclear) saying – “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. Ensuring you have adequate heating in your environment, appropriate clothing and plans for activities can help to get you moving. A conscious effort to ensure that these basic things continue to occur even when the weather is more conducive to staying rugged up inside can help to significantly minimise depressive symptoms, increase energy levels and lift mood.

SAD or any of the symptoms associated with it, can be effectively treatment with psychological intervention. If you find you are struggling to stay on top of things, have low mood or decreased motivation you can contact us at Strategic Psychology to arrange for an appointment with one of our psychologists. Psychological intervention can assist assist you with living the life you want to live throughout the colder months and into the future.

Picture in your head the worst day ever. Now times that by twenty, and a rainy Sunday is still worse then that. I hate nothing more then to know that my week filled with responsibilities starts all over again and when the weather is yucky, it’s an even worse feeling. Why is that? How come a beautiful Sunday with the sun shining is much better then a gloomy Sunday filled with rain. Although we all don’t consciously notice it, the weather and seasons affect our mood in a big way. It’s not just a coincidence that you are sad on a rainy day and happy on a nice day, it all relates back to science.

Your body can react to weather in multiple ways, depending on the person and their personality. According to science, when the temperature is hotter, it can bring someone that is depressed, out of depression for a while. Although it doesn’t curediseases, the weather can strongly influence the way that we behave and interact with others. Again, the weather effects people on a person to person basis, so for example a depressed person is lifted up by the heat, but the heat can “bring out the worst” in a normal person. The way a person reacts just depends on the way our bodies react towards extreme conditions and you can read all about it in this article by John M. Grohol.

Some may say that the weather can’t affect your mood unless you let it. According to this study, men were able to not let the weather affect their mood
much easier then women. They simply ignored the weather and changed their plans around it. So women are less susceptible to changing their plans, which results in their mood being affected. Again, it all depends on the person, their environment, and how they react to certain situations. For example, “if it’s hot and sunny for months on end, that’s probably going to make more of an impact in Seattle (a usually rainy and cool place to live) than in Miami (a usually hot and sunny place to live).”

I can completely attest to this theory, especially being in windy and cold State College, PA. When I was here for summer session, I had a totally different outlook on school and now that the weather is getting colder, I am loosing motivation. On the rare sunny but breezy day, it boosts my spirits for the week. But sometimes
, State College weather can be drab for days on end. I am one of the people that wishes it could be summer all year round because I am in a better mood when Im not trudging through snow. Here, you can find multiple reasons why most people like warm weather. I think the reason why I love it the most is because the days feel longer then they do in the winter. Because of daylight savings, there is more light throughout the day therefore making the day “feel longer”.

Another interesting instance where this theory can be proved is the fact that sunnier states are happier states. Seriously just think about it, Florida and California are filled with mostly happy people and it’s most likely due to their perfect weather that they have year round. Although the affects of the weather vary depending on the situation, I think the consensus is that no matter what type of person you are, you can’t stop the way you feel when you walk outside everyday.

Does rain make you SAD?

It’s been raining in Hong Kong for a week. And let me reiterate, Hong Kong is where I live currently, so I’ve been waking up to dreary grey days, punctuated by sudden downpours that last minutes or hours but that usually occur while I’m out walking the dog.

When it rains in Hong Kong, it’s not like the rain in other cities. When you exist under a canopy of grey concrete, everything drips, the grit and grime on the street turn into a grey sludge that gets on your shoes and makes spatter marks on the back of your pants.

In short, it’s not fun.

Waking up to find yourself in a perpetual rain storm day after day has to affect your mood, and I say this because staring out the window at the smidgen of sky I can see through a little gap among the grey buildings and realising that it too was grey made me want to cry.

Or maybe it was allergies.

In any case, it’s no secret that weather affects our moods. In fact, weather can make you downright SAD. SAD, of course, being an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It usually occurs in winter months when there is less sun. The scientific reasoning being that with less sun our bodies pumps out more melatonin, which makes us sleepy. This explains that rainy day malaise of wanting to sit on the couch and destroy a bag of fried snacks and then pass out from gluttony. But because of this increased desire to do nothing, our bodies create less serotonin, which in turn affects our mood – so SAD makes people feel sad.

Pause for the slow solitary clapping of one pair of hands.

Cold weather is said to make people lethargic and rainy weather can make people eat, so mix the two together and you have the perfect mix for obesity.

But weather effects on emotion is no joke. Suicides have been linked to certain seasons. Now, you would expect that season to be winter – especially if you’d ever experienced the cold, starkness of an Ontario winter in Canada – but suicides actually peak in spring and summer and decrease in autumn and winter. A study done in 2012 concluded that this was true of both northern and southern hemisphere locations, making this fact independent of culture.

No real reason was given in the study, though a friend from Iceland – where they endure months of darkness in winter – may have hit on why: He told me that no one commits suicide in the winter. Everyone is depressed when it’s dark nonstop. Everyone. So it’s sad but it’s a communal experience. It’s when the sun comes back in spring, and people start to get happy again, and you’re still depressed that you start to think about ending it all.

If the cold and darkness can make people feel depressed, the sun typically does the opposite. Sunlight makes people more helpful. In one study, researchers dressed up as hitchhikers and stuck their thumbs out on rainy and sunny days – and drivers were more likely to pick them up on sunny days. Though that could also be because on rainy days people were more likely to be reminded that some hitchhiker might be a serial killer….

If you’re a guy, women have been shown in another study to be more willing to impart their phone number to a stranger on a sunny day than a rainy day. Presumably men are willing to hand out their phone numbers at any time of the year….

And finally, the sun makes people want to spend more money. Researchers found that the sun makes people feel more positive, which makes then want to shed their cash – which, ironically, will probably make them feel negative later, but who cares! The sun’s out!

Now just because the weather can affect our moods doesn’t mean it has to. A study of Dutch teenagers’ moods found that just over 50% were affected by weather; of those, 17% were happier in summer, 27% hated summer – that just sounds unnatural – and 9% were rain haters.

The other way to be unaffected by weather is to avoid it. Another study found that men were more likely to change their plans because of weather while women were less likely to modify their activities, meaning they often are hiking in typhoons. Which explains why I’ve been hiking in typhoons with my girlfriend. (Typhoons courtesy of Tropical Storm Merbock, which hit Hong Kong earlier this month.)

In any case, being outside in any nice weather is said to improve mood, memory, and creativity. So I’m headed out to improve all those things – once it stops raining for five minutes.

Catch Jason Godfrey on Inspiring Homes on Life Inspired (Astro CH 728).

This Is Why You Have the Seasonal Blues—and What You Can Do About It

A lack of light—not so much the weather—is also to blame, she says. When you consider that we’ll only have 8 hours and 25 minutes of daylight on the winter solstice, it makes sense that seasonal blues are a common complaint in Seattle.

“We’re at a Northern enough latitude that there is a huge difference in the length of day between summer and winter,” says Cashman. “People who are sensitive to that are going to really notice it.”

Is It Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is such a common phrase that anyone living in the Northwest who gets a little down in the dumps swears they have it. But SAD isn’t recognized in the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)—the handbook used by mental health providers to make diagnoses.

Instead, someone who displays symptoms of depression with a seasonal pattern would be diagnosed with depressive disorder with a seasonal specifier, says Daniel Evans, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who practices at the UW Neighborhood Northgate Clinic. Unless your symptoms are causing significant levels of distress or impairing your personal or work life, you probably don’t have SAD, he says.

“Most people who do experience those kinds of things—feeling more sluggish, more fatigued or less energetic—probably wouldn’t meet the criteria for a mental disorder,” he says. “They probably would be what we call ‘subclinical’ or ‘subthreshold.’ I think a lot of people probably fall into that subclinical sort of range.”

How to Keep the Rainy Day Blues at Bay

If you find that your work is suffering, you’re not engaging with your friends or family, or you’re always exhausted no matter what you do, talk with your doctor, says Cashman. These are symptoms of depression that should be addressed.

No matter your diagnosis, a little self-care can go a long way in the darker fall and winter months. Here are five things you can do to make it to spring with your mood and energy levels intact.

1. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule

One possible reason for the fatigue some people feel at this time of year is because of the effect that changes in daylight hours have to your biological clock. This internal clock responds to light and dark to tell you when you should be awake, and when you should be asleep.

The Weather and Your Mood

How much does the weather really affect your mood?

by Jennie Wood

Related Links

  • America’s Worst Cities for Spring Allergies, 2012
  • The Top 25 U.S. Cities with the Cleanest Air
  • Temperature Extremes in the United States
  • Taking Care of the Earth Every Day
  • Color Psychology

You’ve heard the term Seasonal Affective Disorder. You also know that exposure to sunlight provides vitamin D, which affects hormone levels and, therefore, moods. You’ve sat inside on a gloomy, rainy day, annoyed that your plans were washed out. But how much does the weather really affect your mood?

Research has proven that warm temperatures and exposure to sunshine have the greatest positive impact on moods. A report published in the British Journal of Psychology found that warmer temperatures lowered anxiety and skepticism while more hours of sunshine increased positive thinking. The same study showed that high levels of humidity made it hard to concentrate, increasing fatigue and sleepiness.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the clinical name for winter depression or the winter blues, occurs due to the temperature drop and the short days during the winter months. Symptoms include depression and excessive eating and sleeping. Some people with SAD gain weight due to over-eating and inactivity. Women suffer from SAD up to three times more than men.

There are ways to treat SAD. Maintaining a regular schedule, especially sleep, is the most important factor. Exercise and exposure to natural light are also factors for keeping the winter blues at bay. Taking daily walks and sitting next to windows at home, work or in class can help. Putting your bedroom lights on a timer so that they come on before you wake up (like the sun rising) can help maintain a sleep schedule. In addition, there are special “warm” lights available for fighting seasonal depression.

The Weather and Allergies

Seasonal and year-long allergies can interrupt your sleep and daily routine, which greatly affects your mood. The weather also has a direct impact on allergies. Wind, rain, extreme temperatures, humidity, and air pollution can make allergies worse. Strong winds spread pollen and mold far and wide. High winds blow tree pollen in the spring and ragweed in the fall into the eyes, nose, ears and mouth of allergy sufferers, increasing exposure. A mild winter is great if you don’t like cold weather, but it usually means early pollination for trees and flowers, and therefore, an earlier, heavier allergy season. Rain can help wash away allergens when trees and plants are pollinating, but rainy winters and autumns typically increase pollen counts in the following spring. High humidity levels create more growth in mold spores, thus causing more allergy symptoms. Cold temperatures, however, can provide great relief to allergy sufferers. During the spring, sudden drops in temperature can freeze tree pollen production. In the fall, ragweed season ends with the first frost.

There is relief for allergy suffers. Along with the myriad of over the counter and prescription medications, there are other remedies. Local, raw honey helps control allergies. Make sure you get honey that’s local so the bees have used the same plants and grass you’re having an allergic reaction to. Daily use of a neti pot for nasal irrigation also helps control allergies. Neti pots are available at most drug stores.

Research has shown that the weather does have an impact on how we feel. Whether it’s cold temperatures bringing on the winter blues or heavy winds blowing tree pollen around during the spring, the weather does play a part in your health and mood.

Source: British Journal of Psychology, Association for Psychological Science, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology.

How the weather affects our mood — and our health

By Michael Mackenzie and Sophie Kesteven for Life Matters

Updated August 17, 2018 09:29:06

Looking ahead at the weekly forecast, there’s a possible chance of the weather producing a sense of joy in some people, or an all-time low in others.

The weather can influence our mood and behaviour — and whether it’s for better or worse can also depend on where you live.

Some communities in Australia, like those affected by a crippling drought, welcome the chance of rain, whereas people in metropolitan areas might prefer to leave the umbrellas at home.

Nicholas Haslam, a professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne, has been looking into the links between weather, mood and behaviour.

He’s gathered research on various climates around the globe, and says the weather’s impact on us can sometimes be very subtle.

“I think there’s a lot of work showing temperature and sun make all sorts of differences on our mood and on our behaviour,” he says.

“You do find on sunny days that people are more benevolent to others.

“There’s been studies showing that people tip better; there’s been some suggestions that stock market returns are better on sunny days.

“There’s even interesting counterintuitive findings showing people think better or more clearly on days when the weather’s a bit more cloudy.”

Researchers have also discovered a link between the weather and its influence on your chances of getting a date.

“There is a French researcher who has made a career out of how to best ask women on dates,” Professor Haslam says.

“He did one study where he had a confederate — Antoine — who would at some seaside resort sidle up to women and coo in their ears to see if they would like to go out for a drink.

“Antoine’s success rate was substantially higher on sunny days. This is showing that perhaps Antoine is more desirable on sunny days or that the women he was approaching were a bit more receptive. We can’t tell. We would have to do further studies.”

Extreme heat and your health

The sun has a positive effect on your mood at times, but unfortunately, it’s not always the case.

Susie Burke, a senior psychologist at the Australian Psychological Society, has researched the impact of extreme weather events and long-term climate change on the mental wellbeing of people around the world.

An obvious example at the moment is the long-lasting drought, currently affecting 98 per cent of NSW and 57 per cent of Queensland.

“Drought is one of the best-researched extreme weather events in terms of its impact on people,” Dr Burke says.

“We tend to refer to drought as having an indirect effect on people’s mental health, because … the associated economic stresses and strains … are the main pathway for people experiencing ongoing depression and anxiety family stress.”

That can have a ripple effect, leading to a decrease in community cohesion.

How can I help?

You can contact the following charities for drought assistance:

  • Australian Red Cross
  • Rural Aid / Buy a Bale
  • Drought Angels
  • Aussie Helpers
  • Lions Need for Feed
  • Salvation Army

More generally, Dr Burke says researchers have noticed an increase in hospitalisations for a range of mood and behavioural disorders during times of extreme heat and humidity.

“That can be mood disorders like depression and mania; there’s also an increase in hospitalisation for schizophrenia, dementia, delusional disorders, and a range of anxiety and PSTD,” she says.

It seems to be that people who are most at risk are people who have problems with thermoregulation.

Thermoregulation is what helps the body maintain its core temperature and keep it within certain boundaries.

When an individual has complications with their thermoregulation, it puts them at a high risk of overheating and becoming unwell.

“That can often be because they’re taking some medication that impairs their capacity to be able to sweat, or it has restricted the blood moving the heat to their skin to enable them to cool down,” Dr Burke says.

“So sometimes it can be the disorder, and sometimes it can be the medication.”

People with substance abuse issues are also at more risk of becoming unwell in increased temperatures.

“Alcohol is a diuretic and that impairs the body’s capacity to be able to cool itself down, so there’s an increase in hospitalisation for people with substance use disorders as well as the other mood and behavioural problems,” Dr Burke says.

Increased heat has also been linked to higher levels of violence, aggression, domestic violence, rape and civil unrest, she says.

“All those things are associated with high temperatures, and researchers have done some good work noting those links,” she says.

Dr Burke says researchers have noted that we underestimate the importance of a stable climate on our wellbeing.

“One of the things with climate change is that a greater instability with weather can have profound health and psychological impacts on people,” she says.

And if you’re dealing with weather that’s impacting on your life in a negative way, Professor Haslam has this advice: “If you wait around, it’ll change.”

Life Matters has been examining how weather and climate can influence our decisions, change our cities and fuel our imagination. Catch the full five-part series here.

Topics: weather, psychology, health, human-interest, australia

First posted August 17, 2018 06:30:00

6 Scientific Ways Weather Affects Your Mood, So You Can Adapt Your Mind And Body Through The Changing Seasons

Fall is officially here, and for most of us, that means shorter days, longer nights, and declining temperatures. Of course, we’re all well aware that seasonal change has a noticeable impact on our day-to-day lifestyles, but the scientific reasons why the weather affects our mood the way it does aren’t always so obvious. Thankfully, we have decades of social psychological research to help us shed some light on why we feel the way we do when we do, so we can better adapt our minds and bodies through the changing of the seasons.

But before we delve into the science, let’s set the scene. It’s become an unspoken rule that come Daylight Savings Time, just as we prepare to set our clocks back an hour and bask in the glory that is one extra hour of blissful sleep, we simultaneously and unconsciously kiss social outings goodbye, and instead opt for Friday nights filled with movies, takeout, and wine. Do you ever wonder why that is? Sure, we all know that coldness and darkness cause hibernation, but what exactly is the coldness and darkness doing to our internal chemistry? We know what happens to our brain on drugs, but what happens to our brain on sunlight? Or more specifically, a lack thereof?

And how about rain? Why do we seriously contemplate quitting our jobs and succumbing to a life of hermitude and Easy Mac as we repeatedly reach for the snooze button on any given rainy day? Furthermore, why the carbohydrate craving? Sticking to an exercise regimen would be that much easier if only I craved kale salads and coconut water year round. It’s as if the exact moment that summer ends, my brain has no choice but to consume itself with thoughts of fettuccine alfredo and cheesy garlic bread.

Basically, there’s a scientific reason behind each and every one of these feelings, and once we understand exactly why it is we react to our environment the way that we do, we can better prepare ourselves for any shift in climate.

1. A Lack Of Sunlight Can Make You Sad

A lack of sunlight can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder. Appropriately known as SAD, this mood disorder usually affects people from October through April when daylight becomes more scarce. When exposed to less sunlight, your body produces more melatonin, the hormone which makes you feel sleepy. And just as your body begins craving mid-day naps, your brain begins producing lower levels of serotonin — the neurotransmitter that affects mood, appetite, sleep, and sexual desire. Simply put, SAD can make you feel sad. To combat SAD, consider putting your bedroom lights on a timer so they come on before you wake, giving your brain the illusion of a sunrise. No timer on hand? Look into purchasing a light therapy box for year round sunshine.

2. Cold Temperatures Can Lead To Physical Lethargy

Cold temperatures reduce sensory feedback, dexterity, muscle strength, blood flow, and balance, which can impact your performance of complex physical tasks. Does that initial morning chill leave you feeling completely unmotivated to hit the gym? Make it a habit to pile on the layers, and do 15 minutes of stretching first thing in the morning — the added warmth and movement will stimulate blood flow.

3. Sunlight Makes You Spend More Money

Researchers found that exposure to sunlight is associated with higher levels of spending. Since sunshine makes us feel more positive, consequently, it also causes us to shop more. Consider this finding your silver lining to less sunlight — the shorter days can lead to increased savings. Cha-ching.

4. Rain Can Cause You To Eat More

The lack of sunlight associated with rainy days can cause serotonin levels to dip, and as serotonin levels decrease, carbohydrate cravings increase. According to Judith Wurtman, former scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet, eating carbohydrates helps depressed individuals feel better because the carbs spark an immediate serotonin increase. But that happiness spike is short-lived, as serotonin levels drop shortly thereafter. The solution? Instead of pasta, reach for starchy vegetables like parsnips, potatoes, or pumpkin — just as comforting as linguine, and great sources for added vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

5. Rain Can Cause Pain

As atmospheric pressure decreases, clouds and rain become much more likely. This reduction in atmospheric pressure allows bodily fluids to move from blood vessels to tissues, causing pressure on the nerves and joints, which leads to increased pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. So if you see rain in your forecast, ditch the cardio and go straight to yoga — your knees and shoulders will thank you later.

6. Being Outside Can Improve Your Memory, And Boost Creativity

Researchers from a 2004 University of Michigan study found that people who spent at least 30 minutes outside during periods of pleasant weather reported improved mood, memory, and openness to new information and creative thoughts. Even if it’s cold outside, if you see the sun shining make it a point to get up from your desk and take a brisk 30-minute walk during your lunch break — you’ll find that your afternoons will become increasingly more productive.

Images: Fotolia; Giphy (6)

How The Weather Affects Your Mood & Your Personality, According To A New Study

A wise author by the name of B.J. Neblett once said, “We are the sum total of our experiences.” Of course, there will always be debate over the influence of nature versus nurture, but the undeniable truth is that what we’re exposed to in the early stages of life can and will strongly impact the development of our personalities, in more ways than we realize. In fact, according to a new study that researched how the weather affects your mood and your personality, it turns out the average temperature of your hometown could be very telling in terms of whether you are more introverted or extroverted.

The research, which comes from the journal Nature, focused on the behavioral traits of more than 1.5 million people living in both the United States and China, and how their personalities aligned with the average temperature of their hometown. From these observations, it was concluded that those who grew up in environments that were recorded as too hot or too cold were more likely to identify as introverted, while those who lived in areas where the average temperature reached a more mild 72 degrees Fahrenheit were more extroverted.

Aside from this one study, there’s plenty of research supporting the idea that the weather can affect your mood.

For me, as far as seasons go, fall and spring are my favorites. As far as I’m concerned, nothing beats a crisp autumn afternoon when it’s just cool enough to snuggle in an oversized sweater without shivering, or a sunny spring morning with a slight breeze blowing against my favorite denim jacket. In life, comfort is key, and what the weather is like outside can absolutely affect how you’re feeling on any given day.

The weather can affect not only how you’re feeling on a daily basis, but also your overall mental health. For example, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a “type of depression that’s related to changing seasons.” Those who suffer from SAD generally show symptoms like low energy and a loss of interest in social activities at the start of winter, and tend to feel better once spring has sprung.

Of course, while SAD is a real, diagnosable form of depression, most of us can relate to the downer that wintertime can often be. I know myself, and once autumnal temps plummet below 50 degrees, I get super lethargic and would much rather hibernate under the blankets with my husband, kitty, and a Netflix marathon than throw on something pretty and grab a drink with my girlfriends. When the last snow of the season has melted and springtime is in full bloom, however, that’s a different story.

For most of us, warm temperatures improve our mood, which might be because warmth is said to have an antidepressant effect. Christopher Lowry, PhD, associate professor of integrative physiology and a member of the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, told Psychology Today that “spring fever” is seen when our skin becomes warmer, and pleasant stimulation is activated in our brain. In other words, the better the weather conditions, the better we feel mentally and physically.

But even though the weather can affect your mood and your personality, it doesn’t completely define who you are as a person.

Let me just say that, for the record, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert. As long as you can honestly say you’re happy in your lifestyle and that, despite your preference of pets to people, you still make time for your friends and family on occasion, then do you, girl. However, if you are someone who tends to be on the shyer side of the spectrum and are interested in branching out, you absolutely can change your mindset to meet your goal.

While I can agree with the concept of weather affecting mood and how we enjoy spending our free time, people change with their surroundings. Ergo, just because you may have grown up in Alaska spending the majority of your days inside than out, doesn’t mean you can’t move to Los Angeles and become more active outside the homestead.

That’s not to say that moving someplace sunnier is the key to happiness. There’s definitely more to your mood than how much sunshine you’re soaking in. But the weather of your hometown doesn’t automatically determine who you are and who you will be for the rest of your life. Personally, I’m a strong believer that if you change your mind, you can change your mood, so if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, take the plunge! But if you’re feeling a Friday night in with a bowl of popcorn and movies instead, that’s fine, too.

Are you more likely to be in a better mood when it is warm and sunny outside or when it is rainy and cold outside? For me, I would choose choice A and I would assume most of you guys would also. For some reason, whenever it is raining outside or just a gross day, I want to stay in bed all day and watch Netflix. I don’t want to do anything productive. However, when it is a nice, sunny day I have more energy and motive to get my work done. Why does this happen? Is it possible that the weather can affect one’s mood and behavior?

In one experiment, 24 college students had to keep track of their mood for 11 days. They did this by filling out a mood questionnaire survey. The results of this survey showed that one’s mood correlated with the weather. For example, “High levels of humidity lowered the score on concentration while increasing the levels of sleepiness. Rising temperatures lowered anxiety and as the number of hours of sunshine increased, optimism scores also increased.” I am not surprised by these findings. I can personally relate to these results. The more humid it is outside, the less energy or concentration that I have and the less likely I am to go to the gym or study for an exam. I tend to be more active with my friends and go to town when it is a nice day outside. If being in the heat and humidity lower one’s energy level and concentration as the study suggest, I would think simply staying inside in an air conditioned room would be ok. But the studies say no, so that tends to make me believe that one’s mood and energy level is not based on the temperature, but more so on that individual’s perception of their environment.

There is also a disorder related to seasonal change and ones mood. It is called Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a type of disorder in which a person experiences a drastic change in their overall mood during the fall and winter seasons of the year. Some examples of what could happen to someone with SAD in the winter are depression, anxiety, and fatigue. There is also reverse seasonal affective disorder and then is when people have a mood change in the summer rather than the winter. Most people joke about how they get more depressed in the winter, not realizing that it is an actual sickness that they have to deal with. It is interesting to see how people react differently to the weather. Some people respond better to the warm weather and negatively to the cold weather while others are the complete opposite. I am more of a summer person. By going to the beach and pools, I can stay cool even in the heat of the summer. I like to play basketball and soccer, so I am always active in the summer as well.

There are a couple of different factors that can cause someone to have SAD. For example, reduced levels of sunlight in the winter and fall can cause winter-onset SAD and the same goes for reverse SAD. Everybody needs a daily dose of sunlight to keep them smiling and well. Also, a drop in serotonin (a brain chemical) can also lead to SAD. This is be caused by being exposed to little sunlight. Lastly, a quick change in seasonal weather can disrupt ones natural body balance of melatonin. In
the end, sunlight is the biggest factor in causing SAD.

Every year, seasons change, the weather changes, and so does ones mood. Before doing research on this topic, I thought that it was just a myth that people can actually become depressed in the winter. However, now I know that it is an actual illness that many people suffer. Approximately, 4 to 6 percent of people have this disorder and another 10 to 20 percent of people have mild a case of it. Seasonal depression is a serious illness that needs to be taken more seriously. Bears are not the only creatures to hibernate in the winter, many humans stay locked in their rooms because they are too depressed due to SAD.

As winter is approaching, be careful and make sure to get plenty of sunlight and sleep!

How weather can affect your mental state, mood and behaviour

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WHEN I moved to Singapore from Sydney with my family for a few years, my husband turned into a grump.

While I thrived in the glorious climate, his temperament took a dive.

“It never changes,” he moaned.

“It’s boring.”

My mood, on the other hand, was as sunny as the skies. If the theory is that sunshine increases feelings of happiness, I wondered why we had such opposing reactions to the exact same conditions.

media_camera Some scientists believe weather influences people’s moods.

Think about how much the weather impacts your life — you plan holidays and weddings around it, you check it in the morning to help you decide what to wear and it will certainly affect the activities you get involved in, such as going for a run in the park on a clear day or hanging out on the couch on a rainy one.

But what about your mood and overall emotional wellbeing?

Some scientists believe that weather has a huge influence on our mood and behaviour.

“Climate change is affecting our weather through global warming, which in turn, is leading to increased mental-health problems,” says Dr Helen Berry, professor of climate change and mental health at The University of Sydney.

Others think the effect is more subtle. Nick Haslam, a professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne, explains there are many more variables involved than a simple causal link of light equals happy and dark equals sad — or SAD (seasonal affective disorder), a much-talked-about seasonal affliction.

“If you live in a place where gloomy weather is common, for example, it’s less likely to affect you badly than if it’s atypical,” Haslam says.

“If you’re used to lower temperatures, a heatwave will have more negative effects on your mood and bodily comfort than if you’re used to living in a hot environment.”

Read on to discover some surprising ways weather can affect your mental state.

CLOUDY AND DULL SKIES

Feeling happy makes you think clearly, right? Wrong.

Research conducted by psychologists at the University of New South Wales has shown that people perform better on memory tasks on dull days, when your mood is likely to be lower, than you do on sunny ones, when your mood is likely to be brighter.

media_camera People have better memories on cloudy days, studies suggest. Picture: Luke Drew

Quizzed on 10 unusual objects they had just seen in a store, shoppers correctly recalled three times as many objects on the cloudy days as on sunny ones.

Study lead Joseph Forgas explains that in a negative mood, people think things through more thoroughly and pay more attention to detail as people tend to be more confident and less focused on their surroundings when in a good mood.

“People do better at tasks involving attention to detail in the external world when they are in negative-mood states,” says Haslam.

LONG, SUNNY DAYS

You produce vitamin D when your skin gets sunlight, which promotes your brain’s production of serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ hormone. Less sunlight means more melatonin — the hormone that signals that it’s time for bed.

So more sunlight means more energy, says Haslam.

This ‘happy’ feeling can affect other areas of your life — one US study found that people gave more generous tips on sunny days, while a French study discovered women were more receptive to flirtatious advances when the sun was shining.

Again, Haslam cautions these are not simple cause-effect scenarios: “The sunny season is often the time people take vacations, so that could be a reason they’re more relaxed.”

EXTREME HEAT OR RAINFALL

While sunny days seem to improve your mood, the opposite can happen when warmth becomes extreme heat.

In fact, heatwaves have been linked to increased incidences of violence and aggressive behaviour.

“Extreme heat leads to increased aggression, instances of rape, domestic violence, riots and irritation,” according to Dr Susie Burke, a senior psychologist at the Australian Psychological Society.

This is a concerning revelation seeing as the world is expected to get even hotter in the coming decades due to global warming.

media_camera Heavy rain and even extreme heat impact people’s wellbeing. Picture: John Grainger

A significant analysis carried out at the University of California, Berkeley found that extreme heat as well as extreme rainfall increased the incidences of conflict — both interpersonal, as in person-on-person violence, and intergroup conflict, as in riots and wars.

Again, the experts have put forward different explanations for why this could be.

One theory suggests that aggression is brought on by the increased physical stress on the body and discomfort. Another is that because more people are out and about on warmer days, there are more opportunities for crimes to occur.

Burke adds people with mental-health issues are particularly at risk in the heat:

“People with mental-health problems may be vulnerable as some psychiatric medications are less effective in extreme heat and some impair the body’s ability to sweat and the person can’t cool down.”

If the rain is too heavy, your irritability could increase, Burke adds.

“Extreme rainfall can also lead to increased aggression because people may feel their sense of wellbeing is missing.”

FLOODS AND DROUGHTS

“Droughts and floods — both caused by extreme weather conditions — increase people’s physical and psychological stress. This is due to loss of income as well as breakdown of social structures,” says Berry.

Burke adds that while such events can result in mental strain, such events can also strengthen social bonds.

“Extreme weather disasters are often chaotic and focused on survival at impact, but after a few days, disaster experts note there’s a rebound or honeymoon phase, which is characterised by great solidarity, co-operation, goodwill and help,” says Burke.

“There can be a great sense of ‘we’re all in this together’. Strangers come together to help each other and community spirit strengthens.”

So whether the sun is shining bright or clouds are blocking its rays, your mood will be affected — for better or worse.

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