Why does spring inspire us? Why does spring encourage moods to lift?
It happens every year; although I might say that this spring of 2014 is more anticipated than most previous years due to the…extreme and lengthy winter that we have endured for the last five months in the Midwest. It seems that this spring has been particularly slow in coming; we get one warm day that encourages us followed by yet another week of cold. This isn’t intended to be a depressing blog post though…more of an exploration of the psychological effects of the weather change that we are so desperately anticipating.
When someone’s moods dip significantly during the winter, it’s referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Sufferers of SAD experience depression, weight gain, and decreased activity levels. There are many effective treatments available including therapy, full spectrum sun lamps, anti-depressants, and exercise.
Research has been inconclusive in finding whether people’s moods were negatively affected by the weather. A popular study by German researchers (Denissen et al, 2008) found that there are four type of people regarding mood and weather:
- Unaffected (approximately half of research participants).
- Summer Lovers – similar to those with SAD, their mood improves with less rain and more sun.
- Summer Haters – happier when there is less sun and cooler temperatures.
- Rain Haters – Temperatures have no effect; decreased rain lifts mood.
Other research shows that of weather related issues, sunlight and warm temperatures have the strongest affect on moods. Also, studies have shown that exposure to warmer temperatures reduce anxiety and increase positive thinking. I believe most of us can relate to the gloomy mood that takes over when it’s overcast, rainy, and/or cold. One reason this happens is due to the dip in vitamin D that is available due to the sun being hidden.
So what can we do? Here are some suggestions for keeping the winter blues at bay:
- Open curtains and sit near windows whenever possible.
- Exercise several times per week.
- Try to spend time outdoors each day.
- Spend time around other people, at a coffee shop, mall, with friends, etc.
- Take a vacation to a warmer climate if possible.