Sunshine and happiness: 7 ways the weather can influence your mood

With January being quite a dark and gloomy month, for many of us the idea of summer sun seems a long way off. We all hear of the January blues, but have you ever wondered if there is an actual link between sunshine and happiness? Well you wouldn’t be the first! Studies have shown that there is a connection between sunshine and mood, with sunnier days having a direct influence on our behaviour and well being. Below are just some of the ways the weather can affect our mood:

 

Friends in the sun outside with ice cream

1. Being outdoors in the sunshine can lift your spirits and reduce stress

A 2004 University of Michigan study on how weather affects mood found that people who spent at least 30 minutes outside in pleasant weather had happier moods. And in corroborating research, a 2014 UM study found that being outside could lead to a better mindset and reduced stress. If we’ve been stuck inside and the sun is shining outside, how much of a mood boost is it to get some fresh air and feel the sun shining on your face?  

2. You’re generally happier when the days are longer

 “People simply feel better on longer days and when there’s more available sunshine,”

Kelly Rohan, a professor of psychiatric science at the University of Vermont

“The winter variety of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is mostly tied to how long the day is. So even though spring was a little slow coming this year… the days are still long. Those extra hours of sunlight make a really big difference” Kelly said. How much more motivated do you feel to go out in the evening and do something when the sun is shining and it’s light still versus being cold, dark and miserable!?  

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Friends in the sun olive oil tasting

3.  You feel more lazy and lethargic in the winter

When the weather is cold and the days are short, there are fewer appealing opportunities to get outside. Going out and leaving the house seems so much more of an effort. It’s so much easier to stay inside on the sofa, watch TV and not do much. Box set marathon and ordering a takeaway, anyone?

4. You are likely to exercise more during the warmer months

What better way to exercise than outside in the sunshine? In the sunnier months people take up a more active lifestyle, according to experts at the University of North Carolina. Exercise can lead to a boost in endorphins – the same feel-good chemical that may come from warmer weather. There are a wider range of outdoor sports available when the sun is shining; it’s not much fun playing a tennis match in the dark and rain! 

Couple cycling in the sun

5. Warm weather may make you more inventive

So it’s not just sunshine and happiness that are interlinked. Warm weather can also bring out our positivity and creative skills more. The University of Michigan study also found that being outdoors in enjoyable climates can improve memory and broaden cognitive style, which is linked to more creative thoughts.

“Being outside in pleasant weather really offers a way to reset your mindset,”  

Matthew Keller, one of the study’s authors.

6. Dark days make us more sleepy

Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. At night, darker lighting triggers the brain to make another hormone called melatonin. This hormone is responsible for helping you sleep. Sunlight cues special areas in the retina, which triggers the release of serotonin. So, you’re more likely to experience seasonal depression in the winter time, when the days are shorter.

7. You’re likely to be more sociable when it’s sunny

No one wants to be stuck inside when the sun is shining, that’s when the fear of missing out creeps in. Group picnics in the park, trip to the beach, al fresco dining, who wouldn’t want to be involved? Spending time with friends and family is good for the soul and helps lift our mood.

Enjoying wine outside in the sun with friends

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Do you think there is a link between sunshine and happiness? Do you feel a lot happier when the sun is shining? Let us know in the comments below…

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