The Effect of Weather on Mental Health

Does the noise of the wind howling against the trees and buildings frustrate you? Do dark, gloomy winter days make you feel depressed? Does the feeling of sunshine on your skin instead energize you? If you answered yes, to any of the above, then in fact you may prove that weather has both positive and negative effects on mental health and mood.

The effects of weather on mental health were further confirmed when several Scandinavians were found to suffer from a condition named SAD (seasonal Affective Disorder). Such affected people reported suffering from depression, inability to sleep properly, drowsiness, weakness, muscle aches and irritability up to bipolar or depressive maniac disorders.

Today SAD is recognized by The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Manual and accepted as a depressive disorder. It is believed to be caused by the typical lack of light experienced in the late fall, beginning of winter days typical of Northern countries such as Iceland and Sweden, There are still studies going in depth on the subject of how bright light influences chemicals of the brain.

The treatment of SAD consists of exposure to light and prescription anti-depressants. These treatments will not completely cure the condition but will provide substantial relief until the days become longer and sunnier. It is often helpful for SAD sufferers to stay outdoors during sunny days in the winter. Winter often offers some days with unusual sunshine and warm sun rays. These are the days were people affected by the winter blues should go out and enjoy the nice weather.

As much as sunshine is beneficial to mental health, too much of it may cause opposite effects. Generally hot, humid days may cause irritability, anger, tiredness, weakness and insomnia. It is not a coincidence that police officers often notice a substantial increase in crime when heat waves tend to linger in cities.

On the other hand, substantial snow fall may do more than simply put people in the Christmas spirit. Many times people will feel irritated when the snow fall is substantial enough and may even cause symptoms similar to claustrophobia when people are stuck in their homes for several days.

Those fortunate enough to live in climates offering averages of 72 degrees, generally benefit of more positive moods and happier attitudes. These lucky populations also tend to engage in more exercise and recreational activities that further contribute in much more positive moods.

So should you suffer from the winter blues, put the curtains aside, let the light in, and if weather permits, try to grab a jacket and enjoy those rare sun rays by soaking up the sun as much as you can. Try to take your dog for a walk in the park or take the kids out to play in the snow. The winter sadness will suddenly likley dissipate as it is replaced by the relaxing effect of the sun and best of all, with the many ositive feeling derived from spending quality time with your loved ones.