Can Weather Affect your Mood?

Can Weather Affect your Mood?

Bay Area Weather Forecast: Rain, winds on the way next week.  As most of northern California suffers through one of the wettest winters on record, people are asking the question of how exactly does weather impact our mood.  For example, does rain make us sad?  Do cold temperatures lead to depression, hibernation and isolating ourselves from others?  How about the converse, does life seem better on a sunny day?

1. Seasonal Affective Disorder Is A Real Thing

A lack of sunlight can cause seasonal affective disorder.  Appropriately known as SAD, this mood disorder usually affects people from October-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 sad.

2. People Living Near The Equator Are Happiest

Does a moderate climate and long sunny days potentially induce humans to live life more happily?  It's a question some researchers recently investigated at the University of Vermont. (http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/living-closer-equator-happiness/) They found 'happiness rises and falls with distance to the equator.' In other words, the closer you live near the equator, the happier you feel.  People in sunny, outdoorsy states like Hawaii, Louisiana, Florida say they are the happiest Americans, according to a similar study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which based its findings on a survey of 1.3 million people across the country.

"Sunshine is not the cause of happiness but is definitely a factor. Biologically, it affects our brain and body chemistry -- we need sunshine to produce Vitamin D, our serotonin levels and circadian rhythms are affected by sunshine -- and simply our enjoyment of daytime activities," says Loren Moss, a Miami Florida-based technology writer, who has traveled extensively in South America.

3. Sunlight Can Make You Spend More  

Researchers found that exposure to sunlight is associated with higher levels of spending.  This was the finding of a 3-part study (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/head-games/201503/the-mysterious-power-the-weather) which showed that exposure to the sun makes us feel positive and in turn, shop more.  So if there's a silver lining behind these dreary days, here it is: Rainy, stormy days can lead to increased savings. Cha-Ching!!  

However, if you're parked in front of a laptop with a bottle of wine at your elbow, mindlessly shopping for unneeded clothing on Amazon, nah, then that's not going to work!

4. The Impact of Weather May Depend on Your Weather Personality Type

In 2011 researchers found that half of the 415 adolescents studied weren't really impacted much at all by changes in the weather, while the other half were. Further analysis determined the following weather personality types: (http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2011-18046-001/)

  • Summer lovers (17% percent): "Happier, less fearful, and less angry on days with more sunshine and higher temperatures.  More hours of precipitation was associated with less happiness and more anxiety and anger."
  • Summer haters (27 percent) – “Less happy and more fearful and angry when the temperature and the percentage of sunshine were higher. With more hours of precipitation, they tended to be happier and less fearful and angry.”
  • Rain haters (9 percent) – “Angrier and less happy on days with more precipitation. By comparison, they were more happy and fearful, but less angry, on days with more sunshine and higher temperatures.”
  • Unaffected by weather (48 percent) – Largely unimpacted by changes in the weather.

Sometimes it seems like winter will never end, but remember, "No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn." (-Hal Borland) Befor you know it, the sun will be out, the daffodils will be blooming and you'll be cursing the spring weather for the allergies it brings in its wake. Ah, choo!!

 
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