Prescription for Mood Improvement? Nice Weather
By Lisa Welz
It’s not your imagination if it seems your colleagues and patients are happier, and easier to work with, when the weather is nice. According to researcher Matthew Keller, “Being outside in pleasant weather really offers a way to re-set your mindset.”
“Everyone thinks weather affects mood,” he added, “But the biggest tests of this theory in 2000 found no relationship, so we went back and found there are two important variables: how much time you spend outside and what the season is. If you go from winter to spring and spend enough time outside, there’s a noticeable change.”
It seems that moods can also be affected by the temperature, with 72 being optimal for most people. Moods shifted away from optimal as temperatures deviated significantly, although there were some regional differences. Researchers found that good moods peaked in Michigan at 65 degrees and at 86 degrees in Texas.
However, just watching a sunny day through the window isn’t enough to change anything, but actually decreases mood, perhaps due to resentment. To experience a mood shift, people need to spend at least 30 minutes outside in warm, sunny weather, Keller and his associates found.
According to a report from the National Wildlife Federation, written by Kevin Coyle and Lise Van Susteren, global warming may complicate matters. They write, “Global warming in the coming years will foster public trauma, depression, violence, alienation, substance abuse, suicide, psychotic episodes, post-traumatic stress disorders and many other mental health-related conditions.”
Not all researchers offer such doom and gloom outlooks. For instance, Marie Connolly, in her article, “Some Like it Mild and Not Too Wet: The Influence of Weather on Subjective Well-Being,” summarized, “Women are much more responsive than men to the weather, and life satisfaction decreases with the amount of rain on the day of the interview. Low temperatures increase happiness and reduce tiredness and stress, raising net affect, and high temperatures reduce happiness, consistent with the fact that the survey was conducted in the summer.”
There is some research that suggests temperature also affects productivity. While they don’t recommend crafting a sun using crayons and poster board and hanging it up in the office, although that might generate good moods for the laughs it brings, experts say it’s best to simply check the thermostat.
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