Does weather really affect your mood

It’s common to enjoy blue skies and sunshine and dread the start of winter, but does weather have any meaningful impact on our mood?

The link between weather and mood has been difficult for researchers to qualify, because it’s quite subjective. Some people live for hot summers, while others love a fresh winter’s day. 

But research by the University of Michigan found that time spent outside in ‘pleasant’ weather can have a positive impact on mental health.

The research, based on results from three separate studies, found that the amount of time a person spends outside and the season are the two main factors.

Time spent outside in ‘pleasant weather’ can have positive  benefits for a person’s mood, memory, creative thoughts and openness to new information . And the more time spent outside the greater the effects.

The studies involving 600 American participants compared the mood and memory of those who enjoyed time outside on warm sunny days, with those in ‘unpleasant’ weather, and those who spent most of their time indoors.

Researchers discovered the optimum temperature for the happiness of participants was about 22 degrees Celsius (i.e. room temperature), and noted a decrease in mood when the temperature went up or down significantly.

The study found participant’s spirits were lifted after spending 30 minutes outside when the weather is warm and sunny . But it was the opposite affect for those stuck inside on a nice day who showed a decrease in mood and a lowering of their energy levels. 
couple running in sun at beach
If you’re looking for an excuse to lock in a winter escape, the research found heading off somewhere warm in winter may be  beneficial for mental wellbeing.
This research is consistent with a mood disorder called seasonal affective 
disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression where a person experiences symptoms that come and go depending on the seasonal weather.

Seasonal affective disorder usually begins in autumn and lingers through winter before improving in spring. But in some cases people can experience this type of depression in summer.

Some of the signs and symptoms of SAD include moodiness and irritability, feeling lethargic, oversleeping, weight gain and changes to appetite. With summer depression, a person may experience weight loss, depression, poor appetite, anxiety and trouble sleeping.

In extreme cases, the feelings of depression can be more consistent all year round, with a lack of motivation or interest in normal activities, possibly leading to thoughts of suicide.

While it’s normal for our moods to fluctuate with the seasons, if you experience any of the above symptoms for more than 2 weeks, and they interfere with the enjoyment of your life, it’s a good idea to see a medical professional. 

Year-round mood boosting ideas  

  • Stuck at work on a sunny day? Why not take lunch to the park or try a walking meeting to get a dose of fresh air and sunshine
  • Book a sunny escape in the middle of winter to break up the cooler months
  • Drink plenty of cool water and seek shade on the days when temperatures  are high
  • Find a cool escape to avoid the heat of the day in summer. Tried ice-skating lately?
  • Make the most of ‘pleasant’ weather; have a family picnic, go for a walk or run, consider outdoor sport or play with the kids - it’s bound to put a smile on your dial.
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