The human experience is a collective memory of emotions intricately built with threads of joy, sadness, excitement, peace, and many more. At the heart of this complex web is the concept of the human mood, a dynamic and ever-changing aspect of our psychological landscape. Understanding the human mood is not just an educational pursuit but a key to understanding our behavior, decisions, and interactions with the world around us. Among these external factors, weather is a powerful force that can shape and influence our daily lives: a factor that interplays with the human mood.
Imagine walking with your beloved pet in fair weather. Suddenly, everything that you see brightens up your day. So, the question is: Does the weather affect your mood?
Everyone agrees that weather can affect one’s well-being. Although, this can vary from person to person based on interests and associations. For example, one person may feel happier on sunny days because they enjoy outdoor activities, while another may feel nostalgic for Christmas snowfall. Aside from personal preference, scientific evidence demonstrates how weather affects mood and mental health. Let’s dive more into the different perspectives about the interconnection between mood and weather.
Sunlight and Its Mood Effects
a. Sunlight and Happiness
One of the most apparent effects of weather on mood is the effect of sunlight. Sunlight, especially in natural daylight, plays a central role in regulating our internal biological clock, known as the circadian rhythm. Sun exposure triggers a chemical response of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with happiness and well-being. This phenomenon is often seen during sunny days when people feel energized, have increased optimism, and generally uplifted mood.
b. Sunlight and Cognitive Functions
An Australian study of shopping research showed that the sun can also affect our intellectual abilities. Shoppers exiting the store were asked about dozens of unusual items – including toys and a pink piggy bank – that had explicitly been placed in the checkout area. They remembered objects seven times more accurately on cloudy days than sunny days.
c. Sunlight and Psychological Functions
Happy people tend to sympathize with each other, and studies have shown that people are more helpful when the sun rises. One study found that diners in Minnesota tip more on sunny days. Investors can benefit just like the servers; American studies have observed better stock daily returns in sunny weather.
d. Sunlight and Temperature
Temperature can also affect our minds and behavior. The further away you are from the ideal temperature of about 20°C, the more uncomfortable you will feel. The higher the temperature, the more likely people are to act aggressively. Rates of aggression are higher during the hottest years, months, days, and times of the day, a trend commonly seen in homicides, riots, and sirens.
Rain and Its Mood Effects
a. Rain and Sadness
Rain is often associated with sadness and depression. Lack of sunlight during cloudy and rainy days can cause our bodies to produce less serotonin, leading to feelings of lethargy and sadness. The sound of rain can also have a calming effect, which can be positive, but prolonged rains can lead to feelings of sadness.
b. Rain and Seasonal Affective Disorder
Grey weather can also produce sober and dark thoughts. SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, is a type of depressive disorder (technically known as seasonal depressive disorder) in which a person’s major depressive episode is associated with a specific season. This condition significantly affects people living in areas of the world with long winters and months without sunlight. Moreover, although some often think that SAD only affects people during the fall or winter, a few people also experience SAD in the spring and summer.
c. Darkness and Depression
A lack of sunlight has always been linked with feelings of sadness. Recent studies showed that our bodies are constructed with an internal clock conditioned by evolution to coincide with day and night rotation. In other words, we are programmed to feel awake when the sun rises and sleepy when the sun goes down. The lack of sunlight causes the body to produce melatonin, which induces sleep. Feeling tired at work or when you still have a lot of work to do during the day can ruin your day. If someone lacks enough serotonin when you’re awake, it will be difficult for them to feel happy.
d. Rain and Appetite
Rainy days contribute to a sad mood, but science confirms that rain can be responsible for some unpleasant changes to the body. Reduced serotonin levels due to lack of sunlight on rainy days can create cravings, especially for pleasant carbs like bread and pasta. This may partly be a response to depressive symptoms associated with the gloomy weather, as carbs temporarily increase serotonin levels and improve mood. However, this effect is short-lived and is not a recommended way to regularly combat depressive symptoms.
Other Side of the Coin
It is still debatable for the science behind whether weather can affect your mood. Research is limited, and it changes. A 1984 study found that the amount of sunlight, temperature, and humidity affect mood the most. In particular, it has been shown that high humidity reduces concentration and increases feelings of sleepiness.
Another example is a 2008 study finding that weather had almost no effect on positive mood. In other words, more sunshine and better temperatures don’t make a happy person happier. However, research has found that sunlight, wind, and temperature can negatively affect mood, such as fatigue – although the effects are minimal.
Another finding has proven true for higher temperatures and water that falls from the sky – rain. The more it rains (especially in areas where heavy rain is not expected), the more aggressive people appear. However, this study could only show a correlation between the two. It is not clear that the weather causes these things.
Lastly, while spring may be a season of hope for a new beginning, it is a season of despair for others. Perhaps aided by increased daylight and warmer temperatures, researchers found that people who worked outdoors were more likely to commit suicide in the springtime. Further, for the people who worked indoors, the number of suicides peaked in the summer.
The relationship between weather and mood is complex, with many different elements to consider. Sunlight, rain, clouds, and temperature extremes affect our emotional and psychological well-being. From different types of disorders to the emotional impact of various weather conditions, there is a clear connection between the weather and our emotions. While we have no control over the weather, knowing its potential effects on our mood can help us understand better to manage our emotions. So, the next time you feel lonely on a rainy day or relieved from the sun’s heat, remember that the weather can shape your mood.