Cloudy with a Chance of Moodiness; How Weather Affects Our Emotions



Go out in the sun! It will improve your mood!

Madelyn Stumbo, Website Editor

When most of us think of summer, we envision happy, sun-filled days free of the stress of school, but can the weather actually play a role in how we feel? The short answer is yes, changes in levels of sunlight and humidity can affect our mood. But in reality, we can’t really be certain if the climate makes us happier or sadder, or if it’s all up to our personal preferences.

By looking at things like hormones, temperature, and humidity, we can get a better idea of how the atmosphere correlates to our emotions. The hormones in our brains are greatly affected by light and darkness. When the brain gets more sunlight, it releases more serotonin, which is a chemical in our brains that regulates our moods and feelings of happiness. Sunlight and darkness can also play a big part in the release of melatonin, the chemical in our brain that helps us sleep. 

Additionally,  a study found by Houston Methodist shows that high levels of humidity could lead to lower concentration and increased sleepiness. This could be one of the reasons that rainier seasons seem to be slower and more gloomy. Prolonged heat during the summer and bitter cold in the winter can also take a toll on our minds and bodies. 

One of the biggest areas where we see weather affecting our mood is disorders like Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD). SAD is a condition that affects more than 5% of people in America (according to Cleveland Clinic). It is recognized by the DSM 5, which is a guidebook used to diagnose and understand different mental disorders. 5% may not seem like that many people, but to put that in perspective, only about 2% of people in the world have red hair! 

People that struggle with seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known as seasonal depression, experience changes to their mood based on seasonal changes due to their circadian rhythm. This biological rhythm affects our sleep schedules, hormones, and maintains our body temperature. The disturbance to the circadian rhythm because of SAD may lead to severe depression, lack of energy, and anxiety. 

Unfortunately for us, research shows that regions that have less sunlight and more rainfall are more likely to experience mood disorders like SAD. The Pacific Northwest receives an average of 80 inches of rainfall per year, and the winter months seem to drag on forever. Although rainy weather and lack of sunlight can put a damper on our moods, it’s important to remember that climate isn’t the driving factor behind our emotions. Although environmental factors play a role in our lives, our mood is also influenced by our lifestyle, biology, and outlook on the world. As the sun starts to come out for the summer, we should all try to get outside more to boost our serotonin levels. Take advantage of this nice weather while it lasts!