Something I’ve noticed relatively recently is how much the weather impacts my mood. It seems like such a minor thing to let impact you, but it was definitely noticeably impacting my mood some days. It seemed to me to be both an awareness issue and a perspective issue. I figured that simply being aware of the phenomena would go a long way towards it having less of an impact. I also noticed it as a one directional effect: bad weather got me down, but good weather did not reliably give me a boost. So I made a vow to have a better perspective and to really start appreciating good weather more.
A couple of months after that I read about having the perspective that all weather is good weather: good weather means a great day to go outside, and bad weather means a great day to curl up with a book and stay comfy on the couch. Again, what a simple concept: finding something good in the bad to appreciate. But it was something I needed to read explicitly to actually implement. Using weather as an excuse to curl up with a book worked out great for me – I’m happy for any excuse to curl up with a book. Then where I was living at the time had several months of largely gorgeous weather and the whole idea kind of faded from my mind.
As winter hit (later here in Texas than it generally does elsewhere), I became aware of the effect again. I realized that the days when it’s overcast and gloomy are often the days that I’m disposed to be grumpy or gloomy. Last weekend we had particularly nice weather, and it was a huge mood booster. I made two trips to the park just for an excuse to be out in the sun and warmth, and I felt wonderful. This weekend has been back to gross weather, but my mood has been great all weekend. It’s hard to tell if this is because the idea of weather and mood has been on my mind for a couple of weeks or if the general higher-level happiness I had was too good to be brought down by the weather. So I decided to do some reading.
From what I read, research results are sometimes conflicting and weather’s impact on our mood is often overestimated. That being said, there are some repeated trends. Weather has more of an impact on a negative mood (worsening or lifting) than on a positive mood. Warm temperatures generally improve mood, and wind and lack of sun can worsen mood. Seasonal affect disorder (SAD) is a very legitimate issue, wherein certain people with depression have worsened symptoms during parts of the year (though it can happen both in fall/winter or spring/summer). SAD is not very common, but both full SAD and general season related mood tendencies seem to be linked to the amount of sunshine in each season. Temperature and rain have been linked to aggression levels and life satisfaction (we’re more aggressive during very hot or rainy weather, more satisfied with life during the reverse). Weather impacts some individuals but not others, though we have yet to figure out more about what causes this difference. Places with more temperate weather seem to have happier people.
So what’s to be done? Research shows that the more willing you are to change your plans in reaction to the weather, the less the weather impacts your mood. One study found that men tend to be more flexible with their plans in this way than women, and correspondingly that women tend to be more impacted by the weather when it comes to mood. Extra exposure to bright inside lighting may help make up for the lack of sunlight, and be sure to take advantage of sunny days when they are around. If you’re feeling down, both long term or short term, turn to reliable mood boosters: exercise, eating well, sticking to a sleep schedule, meditating, and/or staying active socially. In terms of food, several websites I visited recommend staying away from foods high in starch or sugars. Whatever outside factors may affect it, remember that you are in control of your mood, and can always do things to improve it.