How Stormy Weather Impacts Your Mood
Dreary, rainy weather can certainly be a bummer, but research indicates that it can have real-life implications for your health, as well. Here are the warning signs to look for, and what you can do about it.
Memorial Day weekend in Miami is usually a time for fun in the sun and the unofficial kickoff of summer. Of course, as anyone who was around for Memorial Day weekend in 2018 can attest, the gloomy weather was putting a damper on the festivities.
Rain and clouds are no fun, particularly when they get in the way of picnics, beach outings, boating and other fun activities on your agenda. But according to Edmi Y. Cortes Torres, M.D., behavioral health expert at the University of Miami Health System and medical director of the University of Miami Hospital Inpatient Psychiatry Unit, the weather can also have a serious impact on mental health, as well.
“People with a history of mental illness and depression can have an increased frequency or intensity of depressive symptoms when the weather is gloomy,” she says.
Dr. Cortes says that weather like Miami experienced for an extended stretch in the spring of 2018 can have a negative mental effect on some people.
But the major concerns, she notes, are with individuals who already have a history of struggling with mental illness.
In other parts of the country where gloomy weather in the fall and winter are more common, this phenomenon is a common medical condition known as seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Typical symptoms of the condition include an increased incidence of depression, anxiety, bad moods, fatigue and other problems commonly associated with poor mental health. Recently, a report from the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change noted that the severe storms and natural disasters caused by the changing climate are leading to an increasing incidence of mental health disorders due to the changing weather patterns.
When it comes to why gloomy weather has such a strong impact on people’s moods, Dr. Cortes says there are several factors at play.
“For one, a little bit of sun exposure is actually good for your mood and feelings of happiness,” she says. “Also, bad weather can prevent you from taking part in other activities that are good for your mental health, such as exercising, socializing or simply being outside in the fresh air.” When this goes on for days on end, the effects can start to compound upon themselves and lead to more serious issues with mental health and depression.
What you can do about it
If you can feel your mood start to turn with the changes in the weather, Dr. Cortes says there are a number of things that you can do about it. “Unless the weather is severe, I usually recommend that people continue to try to go outside,” she says. “Even the little bit of sun exposure that you get on an overcast day can be good for your mood.”
Dr. Cortes also recommends continuing to exercise or engage socially, even if you’re not feeling the urge due to the lousy weather. “This may involve moving some of your workouts or gatherings indoors rather than out, but it’s still important to stay involved to help yourself stay out of the funk of a bad mood or depression.”
Wyatt Myers is a contributing writer for the UMiami Health News Blog.