We all have those days where we feel a little blue, but if you’ve been feeling persistently sad for weeks or even months, it may be a sign of depression. Symptoms vary from person to person, but they often include lasting feelings or unhappiness or hopelessness, to losing interest in things you used to enjoy. Sometimes, they’re also accompanied by anxiety and physical symptoms, like feeling tired all the time, sleeping badly, having no appetite, or overeating.
Despite being a very common illness, depression is still not entirely understood. Sometimes there’s an obvious trigger, such as a life-changing illness or bereavement. Other times, there seems to be a genetic link, with depression appearing to run in some families. Other times, though, there doesn’t seem to be any one particular cause.
Can the weather affect depression?
Yes, multiple studies show the weather can have a negative effect on your mood.
One 2008 study found that greater amounts of sunlight and less wind reduced negative feelings like irritability and distress. Another 2013 study found that women who were interviewed on days with more rain reported much lower life satisfaction. On days with no rain, they reported higher life satisfaction. And a paperpublished in Psychological Science found that pleasant weather was related to a higher mood and better memory.
One large study looked at cases of depression across the whole country, and found that depression was more prevalent in the parts of the country with more cold and rainy weather. In the southern parts of the country that were warmer and sunnier, depression was less common.
What can I do about the weather and low mood?
You can’t control the weather, of course, but there are a few things you can do to help lift your mood when the weather is bad. Here are some of our top tips.
Go outside. Dr Clare Morrison told Healthline that reduced sunlight can lead to a drop in serotonin, a hormone involved in mood, appetite and sleep patterns. Low exposure to sunlight can also lead to a deficiency of vitamin D, which has been linked to depression. Getting outside can help, even for a little bit each day.
Be prepared. Getting soaked in a sudden downpour won’t help anyone’s mood! Tell the Weather Flare app where you are and where you’re going, and we’ll let you know if you need to wrap up warm or bring your brolly.
Get some exercise. Exercise is widely proven to improve your mood, even if you’re suffering from depression or another mental health condition. Use the Weather Flare app to find the best time to exercise. For example, you can plan a bike ride on a clear day, or hit the gym instead if it’s going to rain.
Diet. Check the forecast on Weather Flare and plan some healthy, hearty meals to warm you up on colder days. Your favourite winter warmer will give you something to look forward to on a gloomy day, and planning ahead can help you make healthier choices.
Reframe your outlook. As an example, rather than telling yourself you’re ‘stuck inside’ on a cold day, tell yourself you’re having a ‘cosy day’ instead. Think about some indoor activities you enjoy, like a favourite film or game, and make your home feel welcoming and cosy with warm blankets and scented candles.
Weather Flare helps you plan ahead to minimise the effects of cold, dark weather and make the most of lighter, warmer days. We’re currently in the beta testing phase and we’d 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 let us know what you think!
Help us crowdfund to finish building the Weather Flare app. The finished version will learn how the weather is affecting the user’s condition/s and produce a personalised weather forecast showing good, bearable and tricky days. https://igg.me/at/weatherflare/x#/