We often hear talk of something ‘putting a dampener’ on an occasion, an angry person ‘thundering’ into a room, or good news ‘brightening up’ our day. But are these weather metaphors just simple wordplay, or is there a real link between the weather and your mood?
What does the research say?
Numerous studies have found that weather does have an impact on your daily mood. In one 2008 study, higher temperatures increased feelings of irritability and distress, while more sunlight and less wind were linked with fewer negative feelings. In 2003, a researcher found that women were more likely to report lower life satisfaction on rainy days, and higher life satisfaction on dry days. And in a study published by Psychological Science, researchers found that pleasant weather was linked to better mood and memory.
The weather can affect our mood so much that it affects our behaviour and perceptions, too. A US studyfound that people tipped their waiters more generously when it was sunny, and another study showed that women were more receptive to flirting when the weather was good. 22% of women agreed to give their phone number on sunny days, compared with 14% when it was cloudy.
And then of course there’s SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. This “winter depression” is not yet widely understood, but the NHS says that it could be related to the ways changes in daylight affect your body clock. Fewer hours of sunlight mean higher levels of “sleep hormone” melatonin, which can promote excess sleepiness and affect your mood.
SAD is known to cause a myriad of other health issues. These include:
Loss of pleasure in everyday activities.
Lack of interest in social activity.
Persistent low mood.
Stress and/or anxiety.
So what can we do?
Although the darker nights and colder days can make you feel down, there are ways you can mitigate the negative effects of winter.
Get some natural light. Spend as much time as possible in natural light. Try to go for a walk outside or even just spend time sitting in the park or garden. If you can’t get out, keep the curtains open during the day and try to sit near a window.
Use a light box. If you can’t get outside much or you’re feeling especially down in the winter, consider buying a light box. These powerful little devices simulate sunlight, reducing melatonin and boosting production of serotonin, the “happy hormone”. This can also help you to get better sleep by regulating your circadian rhythms.
Get some exercise. Exercise is essential all year round for good mental health. Every single study shows improved mood after exercise, so don’t be tempted to skip your workout. Ideally, try to exercise outside when it’s light. But if it’s dark or you can’t face the cold outside, consider working out at home or going to the gym.
Plan ahead. Your daily functioning can take a hit when you’re suffering from SAD. Look after “future you” by preparing meals in advance and freezing them so you always something nutritious to hand. You can also use the Weather Flare app to see which days are likely to affect you the most, and plan your most strenuous tasks for days with better weather. Think of some positive indoor activities you’ll enjoy for the harder days, such as your favourite films, games or foods.
The Weather Flare app helps you plan ahead to minimise the effects of the cold, dark days and make the most of lighter, warmer weather. Download it today and see how it can help you. We’re currently in the beta testing phase of the Weather Flare app, and would love your feedback on how we can make it even better for you. Download the beta Weather Flare app now on iOS and Android and see how it helps!