Conventional wisdom tells us – or at least suggests – that our mood changes with the weather. But is it true? Does our mood really change with the coming and going of the sun or rain?
Although there have been different conclusions, generally, psychologists do see a change in mood when it comes to weather. We’ll take a look a few different reports on this phenomenon; first, the report by Science Daily “Warm Weather Boosts Moods, Broadens the Mind”, and secondly, a report by Discovery News “Got the Winter Blues? Weather’s Effect on the Mood Revealed.”
Warm Weather Boosts the Mood, Broadens the Mind
According to the University of Michigan, spending a little time in the sun, especially during the winter months, can boost mental health and mood. Although studies in 2000 showed little or no relationship, the researchers decided to go back over and look at two important variables: how much time spent outside and the season.
Taking three studies with more than 600 participants, it show that participants who were “randomly assigned to be outdoors during warm and sunny days showed improved mood and memory compared to participants who were outside when the weather was not pleasant and compared to participants who spent the time inside.”
Furthermore, the temperature – not just the state of being in or outdoors – affects our mood. Americans, on average, prefer 72 degrees, with mood decreasing in both higher and lower extremes.
Despite the connection between weather and mood, don’t expect to be happy just by glancing at the outside beauty. “For weather to improve mood, subjects needed to spend at least 30 minutes outside in warm, sunny weather…spending time indoors when the weather outside was pleasant actually decreased mood and narrowed cognitive style.”
If nothing else, this pays homage to the old advice of a parents: go outside and play! Not only will this help you be physically active, but it will also make you happier – maybe that’s why kids are so spunky!
Got the Winter Blues?
In a similar article, researchers took the time to separate people into different categories to better understand how weather would affect mood. According to Jaap Denissen of Humboldt University in Berlin, “We saw differences and we actually categorized people according to their differences.” Those differences were as follows: 1) those unaffected by weather or seasons, 2) those who love summer, 3) those who hate summer, and 4) those who love rain.
Denissen argued that they could clearly label these types of people in the study.
Depending on your weather-personality type, the rain or shine outdoors would provide you with either joy or depression. Of course, as the article points out, individual differences make any generalization difficult to purport. However, with large studies, these types of trends could be assessed.
Vitamin D may be one factor in this, too. Although Vitamin D is primarily consumed through foods, our skin also produces it when exposed to sunlight. That said, with prolonged storms or winter seasons, Vitamin D deficiencies and decreased mood seem to have a correlation. At the same time, supplemental Vitamin D “has shown mood-enhancing results.”
The Weather and Us
In any case, both studies shed light on one thing: weather can have an effect on mood. Some people, like those unaffected by weather, won’t exhibit much, if any, change, but that doesn’t mean we all wont. Next time you’re feeling down, take a stroll outside to help perk you up. Or, if the weather is especially bad, maybe watch some videos about the Caribbean and take a Vitamin D supplement!
Of course, consult with your physician before starting any supplements or major dietary changes! These are, after all, just two studies in a field with a plethora of answers!