Thursday, February 05, 2009

Winter Weather and Your Mood

Probably ever since you were a kid, you associated cold and rain with gloom and warmth and sunshine with happiness. But does weather create the gloomy glooms, or have we simply decided it does? For most of us, it generally is what we've created for ourselves. For others, however, SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a reality. First, let's focus on those of us who have a choice, and are free to make choices that either better our disposition or worsen it.

Researchers have worked for years to confirm a relationship between weather and temperament. No great surprise, most of the studies connect a more depressed mood with high humidity and limited exposure to sunshine, and show that our spirits tend to rise with more time in the sun and higher barometric pressure.

Award winning columnist Rich Maloof writes at MSN.com about a study from last Fall involving more than 1,200 participants from Germany, most of them women, and which seems to go against prior research! The study's general conclusion was that the average effect of "good" weather on positive mood was minimal. Windy, cool, and darker days seemed to have just a slight negative effect on mood, with many subjects reporting that they felt tired or sluggish.

The study provides an interesting new perspective, but the results were hard to make conclusive - mostly because of a wide range of responses the participants recorded in their journals. What researchers are taking from the study, however, is that people differ in their sensitivity to daily weather changes. Some people's emotions are simply more vulnerable to weather changes than others, and can experience a depressive winter through a string of colder days with less sun. Being more susceptible to this can be the basis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

And while most of us can take steps to overcome the gloomy mood inclement weather can create, even folks who suffer from SAD can take steps to empower themselves against their emotions being blown in the wind, so to speak!

Ani Kalayjian, Ed.D., R.N., professor of psychology at Fordham University in New York, encourages people to take charge of their feelings. Her self-help recommendations for SAD sufferers are applicable to anyone who wants to put a little sunshine in his or her step. Do things that make you feel good, like listening to uplifting music or reading a good novel. You should look at pictures from a vacation or, even better if possible, take a vacation to a warm place.

And of course, all of the tried-and-true methods of mood improvement and stress management apply as well, including eating well, getting enough sleep and regular exercise, moderating alcohol intake, and meditating, which all boils down to empowering yourself to break through those emotional clouds when they pass through your sunshine!

[Research by John Tesh]

1 comment:

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