It’s no mystery that our environment has observable effects on our mental health. Where you are and what surrounds you plays a huge role in how you interact with the world. It makes sense then that something like the seasons and the weather that changes with them has such an impactful hold on our mood and mental state.
Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder
Brought on by the onset of winter, seasonal affective disorder is not just the winter blues that affects so many. Instead it is an actual depressive episode. Symptoms include fatigue, lethargy, excessive sleep, and an abnormal appetite for foods like sugar and carbs. People in the northern latitudes are more prone to seasonal affective disorder, as the harsher winters result in colder temperatures and less sunlight.
Weather and Moods
While seasonal affective disorder is an actual period of depression, sometimes bad weather can simply result in a bad mood. A bad mood is not depression, but it's worth being aware of. Keeping track of your mental state is an important part of improving it. One study found that when in a good mood, weather won’t affect your mindset much. However if you’re in a bad mood, bad weather can make it observably worse.
A study in 2004 found that there was a measurable mood boost during dramatic temperature changes like from winter to spring or fall to summer. More time outside on sunny, warm days resulted in more positive thoughts and moods.
Another study in 2008, examining 1,600 people, was designed to see if weather conditions predicted a positive effect. They found no such evidence for any weather conditions, and instead found that there was a negative effect on mood when temperatures rose. Counter to popular belief, this meant that the researchers found that sun and heat can make us more irritable and reactive.
The Bottom Line
So what do these conflicting results mean? It could perhaps suggest that we are all so vastly different in how we react to weather that studies will always be inconsistent. It can also mean that although warm sunny weather provides valuable benefits like vitamin D, it may not actually be the weather itself but instead the activities that certain weather allows us to do that improves mood.
Regardless of the weather, we can all have highs and lows. Never hesitate to reach out to family and friends when you’re feeling down.