Good Question: How Does Weather Affect Our Moods?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It has been wet for much of southern Minnesota over the past two days.

For some, that could mean gloomy, more tiresome days. So, how does weather affect our moods?

There is a psychological component to the connection between weather and emotion, says Dr. Katharine Nelson, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota.

“If you walk out the door and it’s raining and you have to take out your umbrella, you’re getting wet on the way to the car — that can be a real day dampener,” Nelson said.

sunset Good Question: How Does Weather Affect Our Moods?

(credit: CBS)

But our bodies have evolved to be more sophisticated than just that. Dr. Nelson points to the significant relationship our body has with light. Over time, our bodies have made it priority to understand light and dark in terms of survival.

“Some people are more sensitive than others, based on genetics or other factors, and may have more of a tie,” Nelson said.

There is a bundle of nerves in the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that regulates body function — like mood, energy and temperature.

“The body and the brain really want to know whether it’s light or dark and pay close attention to that,” she said. “Based on that, we’ll secrete different neurotransmitters, or hormones, related to our well-being.”

For example, access to brighter light can cause the brain to release serotonin and melatonin, which, in subtle ways, can impact the way we function.

As for the colder temperatures and shorter days during winter, Dr. Nelson says that can cause a hibernation effect in human beings, making us feel more tired.

“For some people, it’s just cloudy outside and I feel crummy,” she said. “But for some people, it can be quite serious, like people who are vulnerable to depression or anxiety.”

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