Weather and Mood: Are They Really Related?

It is often thought that climatic circumstances can affect the way we feel. Is this real? We tell you what the research says about the relationship between climate and mood.

woman in the rain

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: Clima y estado de ánimo: ¿Realmente están relacionados?

In everyday life it is common for moods or emotions to be associated with temperatures. It is from there that it is mentioned that a person is very cold or that there is nothing like the warmth of home. In countries with seasons, it is often said that the happiest months are summer and spring, and that in winter there are people who get depressed. On the other hand, in countries without seasons there is also a popular belief that people who live in temperate climates are more cheerful, partying or open. In fact, research titled "The Temperature of Emotions" found that there are "consistent associations between emotions and concepts of temperature at an explicit level across languages."

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Winter Blues

In countries that have seasons, it is common to find that people's moods change in winter. This is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is a type of depression that occurs in late fall and winter, which usually disappears in the spring, according to a publication from Harvard University . "The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but research points to a lack of light as the main contributor," said the university.

On the other hand, Yale University has a winter depression research clinic, dedicated to investigating the causes of SAD and how to prevent it. This medical center points out that this disorder is more frequent in remote areas of Ecuador and is more common in women than in men. When a person experiences SAD, they have a feeling of sadness, tiredness, low self-esteem, and discouragement.

According to the Harvard researchers, this happens because light helps regulate the circadian rhythm, that internal "clock" that regulates our activities, metabolism and sleep, among other things. Thus, a lack of light causes the brain to "produce too much melatonin, the sleep hormone, and release less serotonin, the brain chemical that feels good and affects mood." For this reason, innovation is being made in the medical area through light therapies, to make up for the absence of natural light.

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Climate Change Also Affects Mood

Climate change has various ways of affecting people's moods and mental health. First of all, it is related to climate anxiety, which consists of having negative thoughts and emotions, of anguish or fear due to the crisis that humanity is experiencing.

On the other hand, extreme weather events will become more frequent. Floods, droughts, storms, heat waves or forest fires, among others, will appear more frequently. Thus, the climatic conditions as we know them, and are used to them, will change. So, it is very likely that this impacts our emotions. In fact, extreme temperatures (both very high and very low) are stressful for people, as they limit activities.

"Phenomena related to climate change, such as extreme weather events (EWE), have the potential to affect children's mood and behavior," says research from Mercer University in the United States. In addition, he points out that post-traumatic stress is the most common consequence. This can have consequences in the development of people. For this reason, it is important to generate strategies that help communities develop resilience and adapt to situations, as well as prevent possible disasters.

Weather and Mood: It's All About Adaptation

Much research has been done to assess the impact of climate and geographic conditions on emotions, feelings of well-being, and happiness. However, there are multiple opinions and results in this regard, even contradictory ones. For example, research published in the Journal of Hapinnes Studies found that changes in the weather seemed to have a different impact on mood swings for women than for men. "Women are much more sensitive to weather than men, and life satisfaction decreases with the amount of rain on the day of the interview. Low temperatures increase happiness and reduce tiredness and stress, raising affect "says the research.

Likewise, it indicates that adaptation to climatic conditions is essential to overcome the negative states that, for example, are associated with rain. That is, if you are in a cold and rainy place, you have to look for satisfying activities indoors.

The truth is that the conditions that surround us do have an impact on our well-being and the emotions we have. Even so, each person is different and many factors can combine for someone to experience depression or discomfort and it is not just a matter of weather. However, we must adjust our diet and lifestyle to the climatic conditions around us. For example, Vitamin D is relevant to many functions in the body and comes from sunlight. Thus, if we are away from sunlight for a long time, it is likely that we need a medical supplement of said vitamin.