Feeling under the weather

While the moods “feeling blue” and being “down in the dumps” should not be taken literally, feeling “under the weather” may hold some validity. Changes in weather can influence one’s mood, behavior and sleep patterns.

According to the website PsychCentral, studies conducted in the past three decades reveal that humidity, temperature and amount of sunshine are factors in determining moods.

Data provided in the British Jounal of Psychology, the Journal of General Psychology and the International Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have proven that humidity plays a large role in influencing moods. High humidity often results in lack of focus and drowsiness; low humidity corresponds with pleasant moods. While high temperatures and sunshine generally are linked with better moods and enhanced concentration – especially since people have not experienced such weather during winter months – excessive heat can result in violent tendencies and increased irritability. Exposure to sunshine also correlated with cheerfulness.

Variations in temperature and amount of sunlight throughout the year are also believed to be the roots of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), as explained in medical website WebMD. Defined as a type of major depressive disorder that occurs each year around the same time, typically during the winter, SAD produces symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, irritability, carbohydrate cravings, weight gain and constant fatigue.

Possible factors for SAD include one’s biological clock and serotonin and melatonin levels. Decreased sunlight during the winter is believed to disrupt one’s internal clock, drawing feelings of depression as a result. Serotonin, a chemical in the brain, regulates mood while melatonin deals with emotions and sleep patterns; a change in season can affect both of these chemicals.

The influence of weather on one’s daily life can range from feeling a little glum under overcast skies to being diagnosed with SAD if symptoms are seriously concerning. WebMD suggests getting enough sleep, maintaining a balanced diet and decreasing consumption of caffeine to combat SAD. Exercising can also increase endorphin – the “happy chemical” – levels in the body.

The correlation between season and mood goes back in time to when people were born. A study by Assistant Professor Xenia Gonda at Semmelweis University in Budapest shows that the season someone is born in can affect his or her mood characteristics – for example, mood swing frequencies and mood tendencies.

“My birthday is in summer and I sometimes have pretty violent mood swings,” Sophomore Alex Ro said.