Weather And Psychology

Today is a beautiful, warm sunny day in San Francisco, unlike yesterday when it was cold, blustery and rained hard early in the morning….The temperature is in the high 60’s, and the sunshine is brilliant and warm…The small storm we had yesterday cleared the air of all the pollutants and irritants that our industrialized society produces, and when I look towards the majestic Pacific ocean, I can see for miles! I just wrote a blog yesterday about the extremes of snow and ice in the Midwest and the eastern part of the country, so today I want to just deal not with the physical drudgery of this extreme weather but rather with the psychological aspects of how the weather affects our daily outlook on life in general…

It is amazing to me how the weather can so affect a person’s attitude and well being….I read somewhere that people in Oregon, a very lush green state, especially when you fly over it, are among the most depressed people in the United States because it rains there all the time, the price they pay for their verdant greenery… I have relatives currently living in Seattle, who were born and raised in California, and they swear the people up there are way more grouchy and grumpy than Californians, probably again because of the gloomy, rainy weather they have to endure all winter long….

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Sweden, Jamtland, Froson, Man looking at winter forest

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According to my Google sources, first from an earlier study in 2005-2008 and then a followup study several years later in 2013-2014:

“The Weather Can Affect You Negatively and Positively

(A Dr.)Keller and his colleagues (2005) examined 605 participants responses in three separate studies to examine the connection between mood states, a person’s thinking and the weather. They found that:

[…P]pleasant weather (higher temperature or barometric pressure) was related to higher mood, better memory, and ‘‘broadened’’ cognitive style during the spring as time spent outside increased. The same relationships between mood and weather were not observed during other times of year, and indeed hotter weather was associated with lower mood in the summer.

These results are consistent with findings on Seasonal Affective Disorder, and suggest that pleasant weather improves mood and broadens cognition in the spring because people have been deprived of such weather during the winter.

So while Denissen et al. (2008) found no general ability for the weather itself to lift us into a more positive mood (contrary to both Howard & Hoffman and Keller’s findings above), the researchers did find that the weather can impact our moods negatively.

Another way to look at it is that Denissen and colleagues confirmed prior research that showed that people’s moods and emotions can definitely be affected by the weather. The strength of that relationship varies from person to person. So, sorry, yes, weather does appear to impact our moods. And that effect may become serious.

Look no further for evidence of this than the very real condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is characterized by feelings of sadness and depression that occur in the winter months when the temperatures drop and the days grow short. This specific form of depression is often associated with excessive eating or sleeping and weight gain. Women are twice to three times more likely to suffer from the winter blues than men. If SAD is merely a “culturally transmitted idea” (as the blog quotes the researchers as suggesting), then so is every mental disorder to one extent or another.”

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That is one study…. let’s Google one more:

Higher temperatures can bring a depressed person up.

Denissen et al. (2008) found that weather’s daily influence has more of an impact on a person’s negative mood, rather than helping one’s positive mood. Higher temperatures raise a person with a low mood up, while things like wind or not enough sun made a low person feel even lower.Seasonal affective disorder is real.Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a very real kind of depressive disorder….Heat (and extreme rain) brings out the worst in people.

Hsiang et al. (2013) found a link between human aggression and higher temperatures. As temperatures rose, the researchers noted that inter group conflicts also tended to jump — by 14 percent (a significant increase). The scientists also found interpersonal violence rose by 4 percent.

These findings held true not only for higher temperatures, but also that wet stuff that falls from the sky — rain. The more it rained (especially in areas where high rainfall is not expected), the more aggressive people seemed to get.

Other research has confirmed this finding. For instance, researcher Marie Connolly (2013) found that women who were interviewed on days “with more rain and higher temperatures [reported] statistically and substantively decreasing life satisfaction, consistent with the affect results.” On days with lower temperatures and no rain, the same subjects reported higher life satisfaction.

Weather Doesn’t Have to Impact Your Mood

Connolly (2008) found that men responded to unexpected weather by simply changing their plans. Raining? Let’s stay in instead of going for a hike. Unexpectedly warm day? Let’s take advantage of it by going to the water park or beach. Women, on the other hand, didn’t seem as likely to modify their activities, thereby more often taking the brunt of the unexpected weather on their mood.

Weather seems to have a real and measurable impact on many people’s mood, but is dependent upon many factors. The impact of the weather is probably going to be greater in any geographic location that experiences lengthy periods of unusual weather. For instance, if it’s hot and sunny for months on end, that’s probably going to make more of an impact in Seattle (a usually rainy and cool place to live) than in Miami (a usually hot and sunny place to live).

It may also depend upon your “weather personality type,” but that needs further research to confirm. While we most commonly think of SAD affecting only people in the fall or winter months, a minority of people also experience SAD during the spring and summer months too.”

A revelation to me in both of these studies, especially the more recent one in 2014, is there is an actual name for how the weather can change your mood, and it is called “SAD” an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder.According to the definition by the esteemed Mayo Clinic: “ Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.

If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer…..Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (photo therapy), psychotherapy and medications.”

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So if you are like me and rainy weather can change your mood, don’t be alarmed….we are not crazy! As noted above, the symptoms increase as the winter months roll in, and can even affect people in the spring or summer…

No matter how you look at it, weather has a definite psychological impact on people, who often are unaware of it, and it affects some people, apparently especially women, more than others…This is a fascinating topic to me, and I urge you to read up on it if the weather adversely (and sometimes positively) affects your mood in a very real and profound way, as it does mine….It is real…

Just remember, and this gives me at least some small but needed measure of comfort, we are not alone!

For more information on SAD see: http://www.mayoclinic.org/…/seasonal-affective-disorder/…/con-2…Mayo Clinic

For more information on how weather can change your mood, see: psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/…/weather-can-change-your-mood…

AND: psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/…/can-weather-affect-your-mood/

For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

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