Let the Sun Shine In

Have you ever wondered why we feel better on sunny days and have unexplained headaches and fatigue when it’s grey and miserable outside? Pleasant weather has been proven to improve moods, memory, and broaden our cognitive thinking skills.

Rapid drops in atmospheric pressure may affect blood pH, blood pressure and tissue permeability. There are well-researched and known ways weather can affect human health, such as joint pain, during the cold front, and less researched, but quite common symptoms that affect cardiovascular system and cause headaches and fluctuations in blood pressure.

Another way that has proven how the weather impacts the mood is through a condition called SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is a condition which is characterized by depression during the winter months. The main cause of this condition is lack of sunlight. What happens is your body’s internal clock goes out of sync and its upsets the body’s routine. Some of the symptoms of SAD include: depression, sadness, fatigue, sleeping too much, loss of appetite, increase in appetite (particularly carbohydrates), increase in weight, decrease in activity, apathy and irritability. The amount of sunlight people are exposed to can have a large impact on mood because it affects the amount of vitamin D people absorb. Vitamin D, which is produced in skin exposed to the hormone of sunlight, has been found to change serotonin levels in the brain, which could account for changes in mood.

If you’re in a good mood, chances are, bad weather will likely not bring you down. But, if you’re already feeling crummy, a cold, dreary day could easily make your mood go from bad to worse. A study published in 2008 found that climate-related factors like temperature, sunlight, wind and precipitation had no notable impact on positive mood, but that temperature, wind and sunlight did have an effect on negative mood, while increased wind and decreased sunlight had a mostly negative effect on negative mood, though these effects varied from one individual to another.

Temperature can also affect our mind and behavior, independently of sunshine. The more it departs from an ideal of around 20˚C the more discomfort we feel. The higher the temperature, the more people are likely to act aggressively. Rates of aggression are higher in hotter years, months, days and times of day. Heat may also increase verbal aggression. A recent study of new media coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics found that stories filed by American journalists contained more negative words on hotter days.

A study by psychology researcher Matthew Keller and colleagues showed that beneficial effects of warm and sunny conditions on mood were only seen in people who had spent more than 30 minutes outdoors that day. Good weather even had negative effects on mood for people confined indoors, who perhaps gazed enviously outside at the solar fun they were missing. So, get out and enjoy the weather when it’s beautiful, and stay positive on the days where the weather is not the greatest.

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