Beep! Beep! The alarm goes off too early on a frigid morning. The sky is overcast and we’re forced out of the comfort of our warm beds to face this dreary weather. “This terrible weather must be making me SAD,” we silently curse to the cloudy sky as we muddle through the rest of the morning in a less-than-sunny disposition.
But is cold weather really the culprit? I’ll admit that I’ve been in a bad mood on the sunniest of days in the heart of summer. So, is it cold? Some new studies might surprise you. But first, you can’t have a conversation about mood and the weather without addressing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. Typically, it starts in the fall or winter and ends in the spring or summer. It’s still a poorly understood problem as there are many components to it. Genetics, ions in the air, and even brain chemicals all come in to play, but what we do know is that it seems centers around light.
Fall and winter bring shorter and shorter days, leading to less and less sunlight exposure. However, the amount of light isn’t the only issue, it’s the timing. Bright light in the mornings seem to help most when treating symptoms of SAD.
Sound familiar? Well not so fast. To be diagnosed with SAD, you must meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons for at least 2 years.
Only 4 to 6% of the population suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. This doesn’t seem to account for the number of people bummed out about the weather. New research, done by scientist David Kerr, suggests that we might be blaming too much on the weather.
“It is clear from prior research that SAD exists,” Kerr said. “But our research suggests that what we often think of as the winter blues does not affect people nearly as much as we may think.”
So, if even winter weather doesn’t bring us down as much as we thought, what is?
The effects of weather on daily mood
Common sense tells us that sunshine makes us feel good and rainy, gloomy days make us sad. However, studies like the one we just talked about, are consistently finding very little association. Another article decided to take a different look at it. They looked at temperature, sunlight, and wind power as factors that could influence a person’s mood and what the person’s mood was to start.
Weather did not appear to influence people who were in a positive mood, but it did have an effect on those who were already in a poor mood. This flips conventional wisdom on its head. It’s not the weather that puts us in a bad mood, it’s our own attitude that gets accentuated by weather.
What we can do
A lot of this discussion centers around sunlight. One of the reasons a lack of sunlight is associated with lower energy or mood is because sun exposure generates vitamin D. Try spending some extra time outside during the cooler months. Vitamin D supplementation might also be helpful but remember to follow the recommendations of your doctor or chiropractor on the amount you should be taking.
It can also be beneficial to try and start your day on a positive note. Get plenty of rest to avoid feeling tired in the morning. Try a positive morning routine with some affirmations, prayers, or focusing on what you’re thankful for in life. Don’t let the weather be your scape goat, it’s in your power to change your attitude.