9 March 2010
Blame It on The Weather
Why is it that whenever it rains people tend to be more gloomy, depressed or less lively than normal? Or how does a highly humid climate warrant widespread frustration and hostility? Personally, the rain, extreme heat or high humidity will put a damper on my day no matter what the circumstance. The rain specifically makes me noticeably more irritable, short tempered and apathetic. Why does weather have such an influence on temperament?
The association between weather and its effects on mood is a widespread phenomenon. Rain generally warrants restlessness and a raise in depression whereas a pleasant ...view middle of the document...
Due to the sun and an intake of vitamin-D, people biologically tend to feel more upbeat, active and productive because of a temperate climate. On the flip side, people who tend to stay indoors or are not regularly exposed to sunlight are predisposed to the opposite effect.
While regular exposure to sunlight and vitamin-D may lead to an increase in serotonin levels of the brain, inadequate amounts of intake can have a converse effect. Those who spend copious amounts of time indoors, secluded away from the sun tend to have lowered moods with signs of increased lethargy and even depression. Eskimos for example, who live in utter darkness for weeks on end experience “loss of sexual drive, fatigue, loss of energy and severely depressed mood,”(T. Partonen & A. Magnusson 17). This deficiency of sunlight causes a drop in serotonin levels, which has a considerable influence on mood. A more common example of this “syndrome” is the widespread phenomenon characterized as the rainy-day blues.
Why is it that the rain generally puts us down? Besides the fact that it forces everyone to stay indoors, rainy weather effects mood psychologically as well as biologically. In addition to a decline in serotonin levels, decreased exposure to light also disrupts the secretion of the hormone melatonin. Due to little sunlight, inherent to rainy weather, large amounts of melatonin are released into the blood stream, which not only causes a decrease in energy and a drowsy mood but more importantly may throw off the body’s biologic clock. Although regulated principally by the cardiovascular and endocrine systems, the body’s biological clock, also known as a circadian rhythm, is greatly affected by melatonin secretion. Since melatonin levels increase proportionally to a decrease in environmental light, rainy and overcast days common of the winter months are intrinsically linked to abnormally high levels of melatonin during day. On a normal sunny day melatonin levels hit an all-time low at about noon and reach a peak at midnight, but when sunlight exposure is generally shorter during wintertime or blocked by rainy and overcast weather, melatonin levels are allowed to fluctuate at all times of the day. In addition to augmented melatonin concentration, lack of exposure to sunlight – which is intrinsically linked to a deficit in Vitamin-D, can also be characterized by a decrease in the earlier mentioned natural hormone serotonin. Such an increase in daily melatonin and decrease in serotonin levels, which can lead to moods of lethargy, apathy and depression, are also the primary causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that is characterized by “episodes of major depression that tend to recur at specific times of the year” (S. J. Lurie M.D., PH.D. et al. 8). More colloquially referred to as winter blues, symptoms of SAD include depression, hopelessness, loss of energy, anxiety, social withdrawal, oversleeping,...