Many people associate genetics, stress, and work pressure with mental disorders but the weather also affects mental health in more than one way. The weather, that is, the temperature and humidity in a place, has a deep impact on the health status of individuals and this includes their mental well being.
Weather And Mental Health
Seasonal changes in temperature and humidity may cause fatigue, lack of interest in regular activities, more irritability, etc. However, most people do not realize the need to consult a medical health professional for the way that they are feeling. However, mental health disorders that cause depression are quite serious and have a strong positive correlation to suicide. So if you feel depressed with a change of weather, you must consult mental health online services.
Ways In Which The Weather Affects Your Psychology
1. Lack Of Sunshine And Serotonin
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for elevating mood. And a lack of serotonin is usually associated with signs of depression, like a sense of hopelessness and despair.
Brain cells transmit messages by transmitting neurotransmitters between two or more nerve cells. So for a serotonin-based signal to be transmitted, serotonin has to be transmitted from one nerve cell to another. However, there are many ways to regulate the transfer of serotonin between two or more nerve cells. And one way of regulation is controlling the levels of the reuptake of the neurotransmitter by the cell which is releasing it.
So if a nerve cell reuptakes serotonin, then the transmission stops, and this is one of the major causes of depression in the world. It is for these reasons that psychiatrists prescribe drug formulations that prevent the reuptake of serotonin for treating signs of anxiety and mood-related disorders.
2. Darkness And Melatonin Levels
Melatonin is a chemical secreted by the body, and it helps regulate the sleep and wake patterns in an individual. This chemical is responsive to the amount of sunlight that a person receives. So if a person receives low levels of sunlight during the monsoons or winter months, then the levels of melatonin increase.
Research work from many scientists has shown that the light that enters the eye reaches the retina. And the signal from the retina is transmitted to a tiny gland located in the middle of the brain. This gland helps in the secretion of melatonin.
So during the winter and early spring time, that is, during December to late February, when the sunlight is less, the levels of melatonin are high. On the other hand, during summers, that is, April to June, the levels of sunlight received by an individual are high, and so the melatonin level in the body is low.
High levels of melatonin is associated with sleep. The human brain is entrained to sleep during dark hours and the darkness and shorter days in winter make a person secrete more melatonin. And this, in turn, makes them more lethargic.
Hibernation occurs in small mammals like rabbits, which sleep for the entire duration of winter months. Although most people associate this extended sleep with metabolic energy conservation, some researchers see it as an extreme form of lethargy that is related to darkness.
3. The Levels Of Vitamin D And Serotonin Activity
Sunlight is essential for the production of vitamin D in the human body. People who live in regions that do not get adequate sunlight often suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is responsible for regulating the activity of serotonin.
Lack of serotonin activity is linked to sadness and anxiety, and low levels of vitamin D affect serotonin activity and, in turn, affect mood.
So when the levels of sunlight decrease during winters or rainy days, then a person can feel listless and unmotivated due to a lack of vitamin D synthesis in the body.
4. Effect Of High Temperatures And The Levels Of Dopamine
Research from many laboratories has shown that high ambient temperature affects the regulation of dopamine levels in the body. Dopamine is a hormone that is associated with a sense of pleasure. Since high temperatures affect dopamine levels, it might affect a person’s ability to feel pleasure. So weather can affect mental health by affecting the levels of dopamine in the body.
5. High Temperature And Increased Irritability
Many studies have shown that high temperatures are associated with high levels of testosterone production in the body. Testosterone is also known as the male sex hormone, and it is linked to high levels of aggression and irritability.
So if the temperature of a place is high, the inhabitants of that place tend to be more irritable simply because their bodies might produce more testosterone than those who live in temperate or arctic regions of the world.
High levels of testosterone make a person more aggressive, and hence high crime rates are linked to regions that have high mean temperature levels.
Many climate change scientists are worried about this correlation between testosterone and irritability. Many scientists believe that the global temperature on earth has increased manifolds since the beginning of the industrial era. And if the global temperature levels continue to increase at a steady pace, then the world will become a more hostile and aggressive place to live in.
Many people do not associate the change in season with the changes in their mood.
Hence, they do not feel the need to visit a psychiatrist when they start feeling low at the beginning of winter. But now there is a lot of awareness about the effect of weather on mood and mental health.
A professional like a psychiatrist often prescribes combinatorial therapy to deal with seasonal changes in mental states. Some people suggest a light box treatment. These boxes have a source of light that supplies high-intensity light. This high-intensity light can compensate for the lack of sunshine during the cold months of December and January.
Apart from light box treatment, doctors often prescribe anti-depressant pills and recommend activities that uplift mood, like playing a team sport with a group of friends or meeting old friends.