Sunshine matters. A lot.
The idea isn’t exactly new, but according to a recent BYU study, when it comes to your mental and emotional health, the amount of time between sunrise and sunset is the weather variable that matters most.
Your day might be filled with irritatingly hot temperatures, thick air pollution and maybe even pockets of rainclouds, but that won’t necessarily get you down.
If you’re able to soak up enough sun, your level of emotional distress should remain stable.
Take away sun time, though, and your distress can spike. This applies to the clinical population at large, not just those diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Therapists should be aware that winter months will be a time of high demand for their services. With fewer sun time hours, clients will be particularly vulnerable to emotional distress.
The study is published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
Several studies have attempted to look at the weather’s effect on mood with mixed results. The researchers cited four reasons why this study is an improvement on previous research:
- The study analyzed several meteorological variables such as wind chill, rainfall, solar irradiance, wind speed, temperature and more.
- The weather data could be analyzed down to the minute in the exact area where the clients lived.
- The study focused on a clinical population instead of a general population.
- The study used a mental health treatment outcome measure to examine several aspects of psychological distress, rather than relying on suicide attempts or online diaries.
- The weather data came from BYU’s Physics and Astronomy Weather Station, and the pollution data came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mental and emotional health data came from BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center.
Citation: Beecher ME, et al. (2016). Sunshine on my shoulders: Weather, pollution, and emotional distress. Journal of Affective Disorders, 205: 234-238. DOI.