Believe it or not, weather can have a big impact on our health and well-being. And despite the recent cold rush in the U.S., it looks like global warming is not going anywhere anytime soon, so weather’s effect on us may only become greater in years to come.
Check out how certain weather factors can affect your health and your mood below.
Winter Weather: It Can Get You Down
Feeling pretty heated about the cold yet?
Here’s something that might help temper your anti-cold tempers the next time you find yourself walking outside to shovel snow out of your driveway; when you shiver for short periods of time, calorie-burning brown fat is activated– with weight loss soon to come, one recent study indicates.
Published in the journal Cell Metabolism, the research indicates that shivering initiates an endocrine hormone within our bodies called irisin, which begins the production of brown fat– which is healthier than our other kind of fat, white fat. Just one-and-a-half ounces of brown fat have the capability of burning 300 calories. Authors of the study realized that after 10 to 15 minutes of simply shivering, seven healthy study participants elicited as much irisin as they did when they exercised moderately for a full hour.
But aside from that, cooler temperatures could also elicit a big mental health issue: seasonal affective disorder, appropriately-acornymed SAD.
Yes, SAD is a real mental health dilemma, and it can make living in colder regions a difficult task for those afflicted. It’s commonly believed that those who suffer from SAD might be most influenced by the lack of light during darker winter months. To further prove this theory, studies have discovered that when SAD patients are exposed to light, primarily in the morning, their mood often improves. While SAD is not a very common condition, even those of us who don’t suffer from it often go through significant dips in mood and energy levels during colder months.
Summer Weather: Violent Crime Heats Up
Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley analyzed 60 former studies on U.S. violent crime rates, historical rebellions and empire dismantlings, recent wars and lab simulations measuring police decisions of when to fire their weapon; and they discovered an association between heat and violence.
In fact, for every standard deviation of weather increase, occurrences of “intergroup conflict” rose by an astonishing 14 percent, with occurrences of “interpersonal violence,” (including rape and domestic abuse), rising by four percent. This is made particularly troubling when one considers that global temperature is expected to rise by at least two standard deviations by the year 2050, The Scientist reasons.
Professor Kent Pinkerton, a researcher who has co-authored a study on rising temperatures and the effect it can have on humans, said rising temperatures bring about many problems that can target people’s health. For example, increased ozone levels could lead to more wildfires– which would therefore elicit more smoke and soot into our lungs and ruin our respiratory health.
“Our greatest concern really centered around the fact that many of the pulmonary physicians and respiratory professionals are really not very well aware of the fact that climate change has an important impact on their patients,” Pinkerton said.
Extreme Weather: Why So Moody?
Have you ever felt sad on a rainy day? Excitable and energetic on a sunny morning? Or maybe reclusive and standoffish on a chilly evening?
In truth, weather can have a big impact on how we’re feeling, too. Check out what tough weather might mean for our moods.
Makes You Empathetic
Have you ever felt extra-gloomy on a gloomy day? Has your mind felt foggy one foggy morning? Perhaps you’ve been a bit hot-blooded on a simmering summer afternoon?
From subtle things like leaving a bigger tip for the pizza delivery guy when the weather is tough outside to donating your hard-earned stuff to homeless shelters during frigid months, severe weather can actually bring communities together, specifically by bringing out our empathy towards one another.
Just think about the heroes of Hurricane Sandy and the many stories of compassion in post-Katrina New Orleans to see first-hand examples of extreme weather events leading to a growing communal spirit and the acts of direct kindness that emerge afterwards.
“Although there’s a mentality that disasters provoke frenzied selfishness and brutal survival-of-the-fittest competition, the reality is that people coping with crises are actually quite altruistic,” TIME Healthland wrote.
Hurts Your Mood (If It’s Already Bad)
If you’re already in a good mood, bad weather probably won’t alter it much. That changes quickly when you’re already having a rough morning, though– in a 2008 study published in the journal Emotion, researchers found that the personalities and moods of more than 1,200 adult men and women were tied to the weather. By giving study participants daily questionnaires to fill out (their answers were later cross-referenced with the local weather), researchers found that climate-related factors such as temperature, wind and sunlight had an effect on negative mood.
Higher temperature had a generally positive effect on negative mood, and increased wind mixed with decreased sunlight had a negative effect on negative mood. While these effects were mixed between individuals, sunlight (or a lack thereof) was also discovered to have an impact on how tired participants said they were.
Overall, the results were inconclusive– though they do indicate the need for future research regarding the mood-weather connection.
Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.
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