How Much Does Weather Affect Our Mood?
Rain, Rain go away! Come again some other day!
The past week in South Florida has been a rainy one, and I noticed it had a significant effect on my mood. My energy was lower, and I wanted more than anything to take a nap. All this rainy weather had me wondering how much weather affects our mood. Does rain really make us sad? How about cold temperatures? Does the cold make us feel depressed? The answer is complex but overall it depends on the person.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is real.
There are people who suffer from what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a real depressive disorder where a person’s depressive episodes are connected to the season. While most people with SAD experience depression in the fall and winter months, a small minority of people experience SAD in the spring and summer months too.
Fall/Winter Depression Symptoms:
- Tiredness or low energy
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Spring and summer SAD
Summer Depression Symptoms Include:
- Weight Loss
- Poor Appetite
- Agitation or anxiety
Suicide Rates Peak In Spring
We all think of warmer weather as making us happier and cold weather as causing depression. Surprisingly, though, suicide rates peak in the spring time. Doctors first made this observation in the 1820s. They noticed that suicide rates peaked in late spring. The same results have been found today. There is still not a consensus on why this happens, but there are theories:
Some evidence suggests it has to do with interaction among others. In the spring months, we interact more, but in the winter, many people go into a semi-hibernated state. They work less, see fewer people and therefore experience less conflict. In the spring, there is an increase in our interactions with each other which increases stress and may trigger suicidal thoughts.
Another theory some researchers have is based on climatic factors. Researchers believe that sunshine triggers suicidal thoughts, making self-harm more common in months with longer days like in the summer/spring. A study in Korea saw a 1.4 percent peak in suicide rate every time the mercury rises by one degree Celsius. Rain and thunderstorms have also been blamed. While there are studies supporting all these theories, the data remains controversial.
We are all affected by weather in different ways.
- Lack of Sunlight = Sadness
In the months of October through April, when daylight becomes more scarce, some may find they struggle with depression symptoms more. When exposed to less sunlight, our bodies produce more melanin. Melatonin makes us feel sleepy so for some of us; that means more nap. The less exposure we have to sunlight, the lower levels of serotonin gets produced in our bodies. To combat SAD, try going outside more or look into light therapy during the gloomier months.
- Cold Temperatures Can Lead To Physical Lethargy
Cold temperatures can make us feel lethargic, out of balance and weak. Cold temperatures actually reduce sensory feedback making physical tasks more difficult. Exercise has been shown to help alleviate these symptoms. Yes, that means you may have to run in the cold to boost your mood!
- Sunlight Makes You Spend More Money
Researchers have found that sunlight makes people spend more money. Perhaps since sunlight makes us feel more positive, it makes shopping more enjoyable. The bright side is that colder drearier days make us spend less, so more money in our pockets.
- Rain = Increased Appetite
Have you ever spent a day indoors eating? If you have, chances are it was raining outside. When it rains, it can cause our serotonin levels to dip. Lower serotonin levels result in more cravings for carbohydrates because it helps us feel better and sparks an immediate serotonin boost. Solution? Try reaching for healthier carbs like starchy vegetables or legumes.
While weather seems to have a real and measurable impact on people’s mood, it does not have to be that way. If you are aware of how the weather impacts your mood, you can take steps to improve your symptoms during this time. Perhaps one day those dreary rainy days will not be so dreary after all. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.
Author: Shernide Delva