Does the weather play with your mind?
Saturday, 15 October 2016 | Editor
Does the weather play with your mind
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It is easy to feel happy and uplifted by a bright sunny day, just as a dark and gloomy day can worsen lethargy and fatigue. Our relationship with the environment is complex, and scientists are still unravelling the mysteries between our moods and the weather.
Some research shows people are more likely to feel generous and altruistic on sunny warm days – even hitchhikers are more likely to catch a lift when the sun is out compared to cloudy days!
The opposite effect of this is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which strikes many people from October onwards, as the days get shorter and we experience colder, duller weather. SAD is characterised by low mood, depression, anxiety and extreme fatigue that is relieved by sunshine and natural light and the return of spring.
Nutritional factors can influence SAD: vitamin D deficiency is common in the winter months and this nutrient is required for mental wellbeing and serotonin production. Serotonin is our ‘happy’ mood chemical, and levels can rise in response to bright light.
Extra B-vitamins and magnesium may also be required to support energy levels. Feelings of low mood and anxiety can trigger sugar cravings and a reliance on processed refined foods to get a quick energy fix. Such foods are poor sources of B-vitamins and magnesium and will exacerbate mood swings.
As well as the weather having an influence on our emotional health, the benefits of being outdoors in Nature are incredible for mental wellbeing. Ecotherapies like gardening and nature walks are proven to strengthen emotional resilience, confidence and self esteem.
Optimum nutrition is part of the holistic jigsaw of health and wellbeing and we must always remember to enjoy time outdoors in fresh air and natural surroundings too, in order to complete this picture.
MIND (n.d.) Ecotherapy Available at http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/ecotherapy/benefits-of-ecotherapy/