As a society, and as individuals, our mental health can be affected by even the smallest of things - but does the weather affect mental health? If you are suffering from poor mental health or you are facing a mental illness, you will be fully aware of how the smallest of things can throw off your mood and leave you feeling worse off.
We all have our individual preferences when it comes to the weather and favourite times of year. Some of us are undoubtedly born to be summer lovers, naturally craving the longer, lighter nights that come with the hot summer days. But not all of us… although it’s hard to believe, some of us do actually prefer the dark and colder nights where we can happily retreat back to the house, put the fire on and relax. But what evidence exists out there proving the weather’s impact on mental health?
The weather can have a direct impact on both health and wellbeing. If you’re in a good mood, the chances are the bad weather won’t bring you down too much and you’ll carry on with your day. However, a bad mood can be worsened by cold and dreary weather, negatively impacting the level of your mental health.
This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it is believed to affect 1 out of every 10 people. SAD is directly connected to our circadian rhythm and routine of waking and sleeping. It is scientifically proven that the darker mornings in the winter months can lead a person to feel less energetic with lower overall morale.
The weather is something that we largely have little control over. So, how is it that we allow something that we have no control over have such an impact on our mood? It’s very common to see a change in moods such as sadness or lower self-esteem on rainy days - so if you’re ever feeling down during a downpour… you aren’t imagining it!
Additionally, limited sunlight during waking hours can lead to lower levels of serotonin being produced in the human body (the happy hormone). Lower levels of serotonin can leave the brain feeling chemically unbalanced which can, in turn, negatively impact mental health during the cold and dark months. Exposure to bright lights is a treatment for people that are affected by winter depression and SAD to increase serotonin levels and boost positivity.
Cold temperatures can also lead to physical lethargy, reducing the rate of sensory feedback, dexterity, muscle strength, blood flow and also balance. You may have witnessed this yourself when struggling to get up and out of the covers in the morning, or even finding a lack of motivation to hit the gym.
In contrast, exposing your skin to direct sunlight increases the amount of Vitamin D your body produces. Vitamin D is known to increase the brain’s production of serotonin which naturally helps lift the mood. This can leave you feeling more positive on a summer’s day simply through exposure to the sun’s rays.
On the other hand, warmer temperatures can lead to an increase in aggressive behaviour for certain people. Hot temperatures are known to elevate feelings of anger, hostility and aggression - which in turn often leads to spikes in violent behaviour.
So, does weather impact mental health? The answer, quite simply, is yes. But we must remember, each person is different and the weather’s impact on mental health for many individuals can be to a greater extent than others.
We all have our favourite times of year that our body naturally craves - mentally, physically and even spiritually. Yet subliminally, the weather may have more of an impact on your emotional well-being than you ever imagined. Cold and dark days can lead to lower levels of serotonin in the body - which is the natural feel-good factor. So if you’re even feeling like your mood matches the weather, do not panic! In certain circumstances, this is completely natural.