This year, autumn felt like an extended summer. Winter couldn’t make up its mind if it wanted to be mild or harsh and then it didn’t want to end, giving us a snow storm in March. Spring has been a series of major ups and downs in temperatures, going from high 80’s one day to 40’s the next, with a string of rainy days thrown in. If your mood has been feeling as up and down over the past few months as the weather patterns we’ve been experiencing, Mother Nature may be partially to blame.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or a type of depression that occurs in some people over the fall/winter months when sunlight has significantly decreased, can affect people for months on end. This disorder is due to our brains getting less sunlight. Sunlight is an important mechanism for regulating our circadian rhythm (internal clock). It also triggers certain neuro-chemicals to be released, such as serotonin (a feel good hormone), and other neuro-chemicals to not be released, such as melatonin (a sleep hormone that makes us more tired and less alert). Interestingly, even a few cloudy days in a row, where the sun is scare, can start to affect your mood in the same way that a lack of sufficient sunlight in the winter does for some people. If you find yourself being more irritable, fatigued, or even sad, it may be less so the people or situations around you, and more so the lack of positive neuro-chemicals in your brain.
Other weather patterns, such as rain or snow, don’t necessarily directly impact your hormone levels; however they can influence other factors that affect your mood. For example, if it’s a rainy day, you are less likely to go out of your house to socialize or engage in other activities you enjoy. If you do go outside, you may end up getting wet, typically an uncomfortable feeling, leading to an increase in negative emotions such as anger, frustration, or annoyance, that may get taken out on unrelated things or people.
Despite the effect weather can have on our moods, it is important to remember that we do have more control over our emotions than we often think. We have the power to choose to engage in activities that make us feel good, even if bad weather limits where or how we can do those things. So make a point to do activities you love, even if they have to be indoors. Keep social engagements even if you have to be flexible with the location or the planned event. Rather than allowing the weather to ruin your plans, your attitude, or your day, be flexible and open to change. But if that’s still a struggle, rather than take your bad mood out on others, just blame the weather!