“Can cloudy and rainy weather cause a depressed mood?” is a question that has an unambiguous answer. Yes, it can. Not only that, even in the language we use, we commonly associate bright and sunny weather with a cheerful and happy mood, and dark and gloomy or cloudy and rainy weather with low or depressed mood. For instance, we talk of sunny disposition, stormy relationships, bright mood, dark mood, under a cloud, etc. Often it has been found that sunlight boosts positive moods, lifts negative moods and diminishes tiredness (Haslam, 2013).
Studies Showing Cloudy and Rainy Weather Cause a Depressed Mood
The effects of sunny weather on moods have been well documented. Some studies show that people are more likely to tip generously on sunny days, and strangers are more likely to share their phone numbers with you in sunny weather. On the flip side, people report lesser satisfaction with their lives when quizzed during cloudy and rainy weather (Haslam, 2013).
Aside from sunshine, the temperature also can affect our mind and behavior, independent of it. The ideal temperature is said to be around 20°C or thereabouts. The more the temperature deviates above or below this value, the more discomfort we feel. A study found that your tendency to help others became more pronounced as the temperature approached closer to 20°C (Haslam, 2013).
One study found that nearly 9% of people are “rain haters”. This group feels angrier and less happy on days with more precipitation. Another study found that the number of negative posts published on Facebook shot up on rainy days. No wonder, the Carpenters sang, “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” (Taylor, n.d.)
The questions then arise, why is our mood related to the weather and why does cloudy and rainy weather cause depressed mood?
Reasons for Cloudy and Rainy Weather Causing a Depressed Mood
Although the reasons for the positive association between cloudy and rainy weather and depressed mood are not well understood, there are several plausible hypotheses. They are as follows (Haslam, 2013):
- Exposure of skin to sunlight makes the body produce more vitamin D, which in turn promotes the brain’s production of serotonin. And, serotonin has been shown to lift the mood. As a matter of fact, one group of antidepressants used to treat depression is Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which reduce depressed moods by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain synapses.
- Phototherapy or exposure to bright lights has been found to be an effective treatment for people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which typically occurs in winter months when there is less sunlight. Clinical psychologist Tecsia Evans, Ph.D., practicing in San Francisco, advises that even if you’re tempted to shut off the lights and crawl into bed during a rainstorm, make the choice to turn on the lights instead. According to her, “… research [has established] that light can boost serotonin, which elevates the mood” (Taylor, n.d.).
- New York psychiatrist Julia Samton, MD, who offers light therapy in her practice, goes a step further. She encourages people to really try to make sure they walk outside, even when it’s cold and rainy because “you’ll still get some exposure to UV rays, which can help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm and boost your mood” (Taylor, n.d.).
- Cloudy and rainy days also disrupt normal, everyday routines that can be crucial to maintaining normal moods and mental health. They can also affect the availability of counseling, physicians and clinics, and access to pharmacies (Rahm, 2018).
Concluding Thoughts on Cloudy and Rainy Weather Causing a Depressed Mood (Taylor, n.d.)
Psychiatrist Samton encourages people to exercise. She feels it gives people vitality, can contribute to self-esteem, and increases endorphins that have a positive effect on the mood.
Lastly, Evans cautions people not to isolate themselves in cloudy and rainy weather, because she says, “When people are by themselves, it can feel like things are worse than they really are.” So, connect with others instead of being alone indoors when it is raining, and no matter how cloudy and gloomy the weather may be, you will be able to hold on to your sunny disposition.
Haslam, N., 2013. Here comes the sun: how the weather affects our mood. [Online]
Available at: https://theconversation.com/here-comes-the-sun-how-the-weather-affects-our-mood-19183
[Accessed 10 Sep 2019].
Rahm, M., 2018. The Effects of Weather on Mental Health. [Online]
Available at: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2018/04/the-effects-of-weather-on-mental-health
[Accessed 10 Sep 2019].
Taylor, J., n.d. Can Rainy Days Really Get You Down?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/can-rainy-days-really-get-you-down#1
[Accessed 10 Sep 2019].