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Does The Weather Truly Affect Your Mood?

Melanie Lustbader, LPC 

         It is a fact that sunlight increases serotonin levels in the body that makes a person happier. This may be a reason that moods are elevated in the summer. In the winter months, the sun may come out less and therefore result in decreased mood. According to Dr. Nigel Barber, an evolutionary psychologist, “Most of us tolerate the short days of winter, although being confined at home due to extreme cold interferes with our customary activities and thereby lowers mood. When temperatures warm up in summer, we spend more time outdoors and are more physically active whether this involves sports, activities, exercise, or outdoor hobbies”(Barber, 2020). Most individuals, depending on the season and their location in the world, will be able to predict which months are warmer than others. For example, having a snowstorm in March is not unheard of in Chicago or New York, but would most likely not happen in Los Angeles. Uncertainty can cause an individual to be irritable or anxious.

         The Coronavirus Pandemic has caused great uncertainty, which in turn affects someone’s mood; being trapped indoors, individual’s moods will rise and fall. A winter snowstorm may cause some hesitancy to go outside and the fear of socializing in the pandemic will increase an individual’s likelihood to isolate inside. The lack of socialization can cause anxiety in itself, but will an individual’s mood be impacted by weather regardless if they’re quarantining alone or with others? During the pandemic, there has been high stress, such as loss of jobs, loss of social life, and loss of life. Individuals are coping with stress in the best ways they know how. Nutrition and exercise not only decrease stress levels, but also improve moods. When there is nicer weather, people are more likely to get outside and exercise. Individuals can be creative in social distancing in making sure if spending time with friends and family can be done safely they can do it. When individuals are in a pandemic and they experience warmer weather it is that much easier to socialize. When the weather is getting colder in some states around the country, it is harder to social distance and spend time with loved ones in a global pandemic.

         It is true that extreme hot or cold conditions can be unpleasant but will that effect an individual’s mood or will they adapt to their circumstances?  For example, people may spend more time in air conditioning during those hot summer days. Individuals may be able to control their environment by spending time in air conditioning when it is hot out, or inside a nice warm car or at home when it is freezing. Based on Dr. Nigel Barber,          “Despite this, there is surprisingly little evidence that climate has any reliable impact on mood or mental health. There is a very simple explanation for this which is that we are good at adapting to the particular conditions in which we find ourselves”. (Barber, 2020). Although, the literal temperature might not affect a person’s mood, sunlight, will give off Vitamin D. It is important to maintain healthy Vitamin D levels to help a person feel more productive, calmer and happier. 

         The wintertime is the hardest time of the year for many people and that is without a global pandemic. The winter months with the holidays bring joy and happiness to many people but also sadness and loneliness. When the sun is shining, the pandemic may feel a bit more bearable. It may be valuable during weather changes to keep up with a routine to maintain a steady mood.

If you have found yourself struggling during season changes and would like to talk to a licensed therapist, we offer a range of counseling services to support you. Contact Symmetry Counseling online, or call us at (312)-801-2604 to arrange an appointment with a skilled and compassionate counselor in Chicago today!

Barber, N. (2020, April 23). Why Weather Affects Mood. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-human-beast/202004/why-weather-affects-mood.

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