Around a week ago I had a day where I absolutely felt like doing nothing all day. I could not pull myself out of it no matter what I did, and it really puzzled me while I was in it. I get lazy here and there, and will enjoy time doing nothing, but I usually always accomplish something each day. Not this time. I didn’t accomplish anything at work, and I came home and did absolutely nothing. It almost depressed me while I was in it. I got to wondering why I was so lethargic and wondered if it may have been the weather. It was a very cold, wet day, if my mind does not fail me. The sun did not shine one time the entire day, but that is pretty typical of life in the midwest in November.
Doing a little research, I found some pretty conflicting answers as to how weather actually affects our moods on a day to day basis. Some researchers say that there is little to no effect, while other people point out flaws in their methods of conducting research.
For example, Hardt & Gerbershagen conducted a study on around 3000 people over a 5 year period that apparently ended in 1999. They had people fill out a questionnaire about depression, but that is all. That’s the problem with the study, since it only examined one aspect, that being depression at any given time during the year. As expected, the result showed no correlation with depression being higher in the winter. The most important thing that wasn’t measured was how much time each person spent outside. Wouldn’t you think that this is critical to this type of study?
A different study done by Howard and Hoffman back in 1984 showed a very strong correlation between mood and the weather, in particular, humidity. It was found that hours in the sun, humidity and temperature played a major role in happiness. Especially noted was that the more time a person spent in the sun, the more likely they were to score high happiness scores on the survey. On the flip side, however, negative moods were not predicted by bad weather, which I find very strange.
This wasn’t the case with a study done in 1974 in Switzerland, however. Around 16,000 college students were given the chance to participate in the study, and it was found that around 33% of females and 20% of males responded in a negative way toward bad weather. Irritability, lack of sleep and restlessness were all common symptoms among the group that responded.
There has also been research into how vitamin D and a lack of vitamin D affects our health. There are increasing trends linking a lack of vitamin D to problems such as diabetes and other problems such as lack of energy or depression. Vitamin D is naturally produced in the skin when sunlight hits our cells and is also found in foods such as fish and artificially injected into dairy products. A lack of vitamin D is a common problem in northern climates where people don’t get as much year round sun. Some studies have even shown a boost in energy from supplementing vitamin D if you do not get a lot of sun, however, vitamin D should not be ingested in large quantities since it can be toxic in high doses.
Ultimately, there is no definite way to tell how weather affects your mood, but that’s where the scientific method comes in. It’s how we evaluate all unknowns and establish generally accepted principles. The majority of the research around this shows that both good and bad weather have an effect on our moods, and this makes complete sense to me. Even this past weekend, it rained all day on Saturday and was really cold on Sunday. Both days I stayed inside.
Also, I’m sure everyone can agree on some pretty tried and true rules in regards to how we feel during different types of weather.
It’s hard to be sad or mad when it’s 75F, sunny and a cool breeze is blowing through your hair.
Most people feel warm and cozy when it’s cold and snowy outside, especially the first snow of the season, rendering a feeling of peace.
I always feel like staying in bed when it’s rainy outside. Something about rain makes me sleepy, which is what I hear from others.
Hot and sticky weather always annoys me, almost to the point of relentless irritability. Who else agrees?
I’m sure there are other weather patterns that have similar affects, although not as apparent effects on our moods.
How about you, does the weather affect your mood?