The Power of the Sun on Mood
Is it spring fever or happiness to see the sun?
After a long dark winter in snow climates, many people get spring fever. The warmer weather makes us want to be outdoors, perhaps buy a convertible, or wear shorts even if there is still a chill in the air. We want to be out and about.
Is it the temperature or the sun coming through more clearly that makes us so happy in spring?
Even in warm climates,year around, after some days that are overcast, people seem happier when the sun shines bright again.
Many find the sunlight and even certain lamp light helps with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), so it follows that moods could swing according to the sunlight's rays.
A quick search for information on SAD reveals light therapy as one of a number of possible treatments.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder | psychiatry.org
Learn more about Seasonal Affective Disorder at psychiatry.org
- Seasonal Affective Disorder: MedlinePlus
Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) Definition - Diseases and Conditions - Mayo Clinic
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — Learn about symptoms and treatment of this seasonal depression.
A Bad Mood is Not Depression; Never-the-Less, Sunlight might Help
Just because we are in a bad mood does not mean we have SAD or that we are severely depressed, but if light can bring people out of depression, couldn't it also bring us out of a bad mood?
Bright light can increase serotonin which can increase our mood. So though it may be the levels of serotonin influencing our mood, the bright light is the activator.
Bright light for a Bright Mood
- How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs
Bright light may increase serotonin which may induce better moods.
Some Effect but not Much
Researchers in 2008 studied not only the sun, but other weather patterns as well to see if the variations made a difference in people's moods. Overall they saw some effect, but not a lot. Although some people were more sensitive to weather changes than others.
So if you are someone who is sensitive, not only the sun, but rain or fog may be influencing your moods.
2008 Research of Weather on Mood
Sunlight Only Part of the Formula
While being in the sun may put us in a better mood, that is only part of the equation. According to the 2005 research A Warm Heart and Clear Head, other weather patterns work with sunlight to put us in good moods. This older research is upheld in the 2008 research above.
So walking out into a sunny day may or may not put us in a good mood. If we are met with oppressive heat along with that sunny sun, we may well become grumpy. At the same time if we've been in a dark cool office, and we are met with warmth and sunlight, we may feel a sense of relief and feel happy.
The 2005 study also makes an emphasis of the weather's effects on thinking clearly.
From my own experience, if I am not thinking clearly or more slowly than usual, that tends to put me in a bad mood because I'm not accomplishing what I normally can. This lack of accomplishment makes me unhappy. So my mood and happiness are affected by the weather which may have muddied my mind making me feel behind resulting in a bad mood.
So sunlight can put us in a good mood.
Nice bright light makes us happy not hot muggy days.
Is the Equator the Place to Be Happy?
Many of Travel Channel's Top Ten Happy Places are near the equator. Does that mean being closer to the sun puts us in better moods overall?
The American Psychiatric Association says that people who live farther away from the equator are more likely to suffer from SAD.
From the 2008 research, it seems that places near the equator may be a little too hot to keep me in a consistently good mood. If I have to work in the heat, all that sweating does not make me happy.
But then, it is the Travel Channel that says these hot places are happy. I can imagine myself very happy lounging on a beach in a hot spot.
- World’s Top 10 Happiest Countries : Wellness and Renewal : Travel Channel
Where are the happiest people? Hint: Mostly in Latin America. See the world’s most blissful places, according to the leading global happiness measurement the Happy Planet Index.
So are people closer to the equator in better moods than people near the poles?
A List of Happy Countries in Another Part of the World
Most of the countries Forbes has in its Top Ten Happiest Countries list are not near the equator.
Why the contradiction to the Travel Channel? Perhaps the Travel Channel and Forbes are evaluating happiness differently?
It only being near the equator that brings happiness
- 1 - Denmark - In Photos: The World's 10 Happiest Countries - Forbes
This Scandinavian nation of 5.6 million isn't even in the top 10 in per capita GDP, but it reached No. 1 in the U.N.'s World Happiness Report this year thanks to high scores for a strong social support system, freedom to live as one
We have two points of view with the two different lists. They seem to focus on opposite parts of the world.
The Travel Channel used data from the Happy Planet Index (HPI), and Forbes uses the United Nations World Happiness Report (UN WHR). While both of these source consider well being and sustainability, the UN WHR considers that those who earn more are happier. The HPI considers that those who earn less are also happy.
So it appears we have happy people near the equator and farther away from the equator. Those farther away seem to have, overall, a higher income.
Perhaps the sun's rays are compensating for people's lower income, in the end making them just as happy and satisfied as the rich.
Mood--a conscious state of mind or predominant emotion: Feeling
Happiness--a state of well-being and contentment.— Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 11th Edition
Mood verses Happiness
I am using a good mood and happiness interchangeably because happiness could be the result of good moods. It seems more difficult to be happy if you are always in a bad mood.
A good mood could also be the result of being happy.
So good moods and happiness work together and if you have one, you may well have the other.
Being outside on a bright sunny day, we may well be experiencing both.