I was feeling gloomy the day I began writing this post. It was overcast and rainy, which often makes me feel sluggish and down. My mood is usually better when it’s bright and sunny outside. This is not unusual; weather can have a profound effect on mood. There is, for example, a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which is triggered by the shorter days and diminished sunlight in autumn and winter.
Weather can affect other things besides mood. When I worked as a nurse, I would sometimes have several patients with elevated blood pressures in the same day. I had long suspected that weather-related pressure changes played a role in this. Research for this blog post confirmed it. Changing atmospheric pressure can indeed affect blood pressure, according to Weather.com. And weather-related physical phenomena don’t stop there. As many people with arthritis can tell you, arthritic joints often ache before it rains.
Scientists have studied the effects of weather on both body and mind. An article on the World of Psychology website reviewed some of the findings. It said that researchers have found that higher temperatures and rain are correlated with increased aggression, and that more people commit suicide in the spring and summer. It also noted that some people’s emotions don’t seem to be affected by the weather. This last finding, however, was based on one small study; I’ll trust this conclusion more if other studies verify it.
Researchers at the University of Michigan found that weather affects both mood and memory. They recommend going outside in pleasant (sunny, but not too hot) weather for at least 30 minutes a day to reap these benefits.
We humans, like all living things, are affected by the rhythms of the Earth. We are connected to it. We are not Earth’s masters, as some people like to believe. We are a part of the Earth and its cycles. I wonder what the effects of climate change will be on us. Will more of us develop mental illnesses? How will our physical health be affected? We must remember that if we damage the planet to which we are connected, we may also damage ourselves.