"Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary"
The Rainy Day, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"Ain't no sunshine when she's gone’ Only darkness every day ‘Ain't no sunshine when she's gone"
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone by Bill Withers (click here for the song)
Once again it’s very cold, dark, and wet in Sydney and so I decided to research the relationship between weather, mood and behaviour. The unscientific view from authors, poet’s, and songwriters suggests a strong link. Anyone who has read The Drifters, by James Mitchener would recall the character Britta who was desperate to to escape the “tunnel of darkness” that stays for months in Norway during the winter. What he is alluding to is seasonal affective disorder or wintertime depression, that occurs in highly seasonal places distant from the equator where day length in winter is very short and triggers severe depression in vulnerable individuals. Researchers believe that it may be caused by changes to the body’s circadian rhythms, due to less sunlight and our brains complex responses to day length. It may also happen because in winter the body produces less of the hormones melatonin and serotonin, which affect sleep and mood. In addition, researchers have found that being confined at home due to extreme cold may interfere with regular routine activities and thereby lowers mood.
Does everyone enjoy the heat?
"Sunshine on a rainy day (sunshine) Makes my soul, makes my soul Trip, Trip, Trip away"
Sunshine on a Rainy Day by Zoe, also sung by Christine Anu (click here for the songs)
Interestingly for some people extreme summer heat and humidity is demotivating and can increase anxiety, and lower mood. Recent research found that high levels of humidity made it hard to concentrate, increasing fatigue and sleepiness. There are many people who prefer milder temperatures and express greater feelings of optimism and joy when the temperature is lower.
Could you then conclude that sunshine brings joy?
"You are the sunshine of my life”
You are the sunshine of my life by Stevie Wonder (click here for the song)
Researchers have found that that warm temperatures and exposure to sunshine have the greatest positive impact on moods. In fact, warmer temperatures lowered anxiety and skepticism while more hours of sunshine increased optimism. However, the temperature shift may not be the main reason for feelings of seasonal depression. When the sun is shining, we spend more time outdoors and are more physically active whether this involves sports activities, exercise, or outdoor hobbies. In addition, people may have a tendency to be more inspired to socialise when the weather is dry because it’s easier. Exposure to sunlight provides vitamin D impacts serotonin regulation, which is the brain chemical responsible for regulating mood and sleep cycle. A large longitudinal study found that increases in actual time in the sun as the season changed from winter to spring and then summer were associated with decreases in emotional distress.
What about individual differences?
“I'm singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain What a glorious feeling I'm happy again I'm laughing at clouds so dark above The sun's in my heart and I'm ready for love”
I'm Singing in the Rain by Gene Kelly (click here for the song)
Regular readers would know that the psychology literature rarely has a clear-cut answer. It would be simple if rain and clouds meant gloom, and sunshine meant joy. However, there is surprisingly little evidence that climate has any reliable impact on mood or mental health. In fact some researchers suggest we pay a disproportionate amount of attention to a very small number of people who really do have what has become known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). What researchers have found is large individual differences in how people’s moods were affected by weather. There are perhaps the following four subtypes: Summer Lovers: better mood with warmer and sunnier weather, Unaffected: weak associations between weather and mood, Summer Haters: worse mood with warmer and sunnier weather, Rain Haters: particularly bad mood on rainy days. Thus, the discrepancy between the generally held beliefs that weather has a substantive effect on mood and findings from previous research indicating that effects of weather on mood are limited or absent may be because typically people are self-aware and adaptable. When possible, people either choose where they live based on climate and or are good at adapting to the particular conditions in which they find themselves.
Earlier this week client reminded me of one of her wellbeing not negotiables. ‘When the alarm when off for gym a few days ago and it was cold dark and wet I was tempted to hit snooze and just skip my boxing class. Then I remembered all the critical meetings of the day ahead and imagined the pleasure of hitting the boxing bag rather than blowing my top in frustration with my colleagues. I knew that one was not a substitute for the other. However, as I quietly got up and got ready, a smile began to form on my face as I thought of the endorphins, the camaraderie, and even the music that would accompany my morning exercise’.
So send me an email and tell me how your self-awareness minimises the impact the weather has on your moods.
https://interestingliterature.com/2018/03/a-short-analysis-of-henry-wadsworth-longfellows-the-rainy-day/ Menon, V., Kar, S., Suthar, N. and Nebhinani, N. (2020). Vitamin D and depression: A critical appraisal of the evidence and future directions. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 42(1), p.11. Beecher, M.E., Eggett, D., Erekson, D., Rees, L.B., Bingham, J., Klundt, J., Bailey, R.J., Ripplinger, C., Kirchhoefer, J., Gibson, R., Griner, D., Cox, J.C. and Boardman, R.D. (2016). Sunshine on my shoulders: Weather, pollution, and emotional distress. Journal of Affective Disorders, [online] 205, pp.234–238. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032716306553 [Accessed 6 Dec. 2019]. Howarth, E. and Hoffman, M.S. (1984). A multidimensional approach to the relationship between mood and weather. British Journal of Psychology, 75(1), pp.15–23 Klimstra, T.A., Frijns, T., Keijsers, L., Denissen, J.J.A., Raaijmakers, Q.A.W., van Aken, M.A.G., Koot, H.M., van Lier, P.A.C. and Meeus, W.H.J. (2011). Come rain or come shine: Individual differences in how weather affects mood. Emotion, 11(6), pp.1495–1499. https://www.infoplease.com/math-science/weather/the-weather-and-your-mood https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/the-human-beast/202004/why-weather-affects-mood https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/can-rainy-days-really-get-you-down https://www.spring.org.uk/2008/11/weather-has-little-effect-on-mood.php https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/seasonal-affective-disorder