Don’t Get Lost In the Petrichor
Peek through the windows of your room. Chances are high that it is raining in your area as it is in mine. Wet, humid, and dim – a proper example of a dysphoric environment that shadows our life at this time of year. But it is all happening outside; it cannot have any effect on our psychology, right?
Actually, the weather does have quite an impact on us. As Dr. John Grohol, the founder of Psyche Central, puts it, "I think the overall preponderance of evidence suggests that weather can have more than just a little effect on your mood. So no, you're not crazy if you think your mood is affected by the weather. Nearly 40 years of research suggests there's a strong link. And one that, in some people, can lead to significant seasonal problems."
Irrespective of popular consensus, endless rainfall and increased humidity affect our minds and emotions in more than one way. Research published in the British Journal of Psychology shows that humidity lowers our concentration levels and increases sleepiness. Surges of tiredness and irritation are also linked to high levels of humidity. Moreover, people tend to report low life satisfaction on rainy days.
On the other hand, exposure to sunlight and warm temperatures are found to be associated with lower anxiety levels, diminished tiredness, and a boost of positive moods. When exposed to sunlight, the fat under the human skin produces Vitamin D. This vitamin promotes the secretion of serotonin in the brain which stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. Similarly, pleasant weather exhibits numerous health benefits on people who spend at least 30 minutes a day outside.
Weather, however, does not affect everybody on the same level. Some of us may feel indifferent to changes in the weather while others can get strongly annoyed or affected by the extremities. Sometimes genetics play a role in all this. For instance, there is a group of people known as The Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP) who represents about 15-20 percent of humans. For the HSPs there isn't any choice. Research has repeatedly shown that doing regular indoor exercise or just spending time outside definitely helps uplift our mood whatever the weather situation might be. Hence, instead of peeking through the window or listening to live rain tunes, we all should stretch a bit, especially you pluviophiles.
1. British Journal of Psychology (1984). A multidimensional approach to the relationship between mood and weather.
2. Social Indicators Research (October, 2011). On the Sunny Side of Life: Sunshine Effects on Life Satisfaction.
3. Psychcentral.com (2014). Can Weather Affect Your Mood?
4. Psychological Science (2005). A warm heart and a clear head. The contingent effects of weather on mood and cognition.
Walid Hasan is an avid consumer of both burgers and books. Send him help, suggestions, or anything-you-wish at: firstname.lastname@example.org