The body interprets that, when there are gray or rainy days, we should be ‘hibernating’, psychologists explain. EFE/ Eloy Alonso
Atmospheric weather influences our mood.
“Research concludes that, in fact, it can have a significant impact on our mental health”, he points out Immaculada de l’Olmo Díaz Cano, psychologist at Espai Quart de Comptadors, psychology and speech therapy center in the province of Madrid.
What factors influence our mood?
In this sense, the specialist indicates that the light “is a key influencing factor in our nervous system, as it helps to regulate the levels of melatonin (hormone related to sleep) and of serotonin (hormone related to mood)”.
Thus, during the summer months, when there are more hours of sunlight, it is more common for people to feel more cheerful and energetic. Also, it is a time of holidays and more outdoor activities. However, during the winter months, it is more common for them to feel more depressed and tired”, he continues.
But in addition to light, there are other climatic factors that can have their impact on our mood. “The heat can cause fatigue and the cold can produce stress. Likewise, the humidity and the rain they can have a negative effect on our mood, as they can make us feel uncomfortable and down”, explains Del Olmo.
The psychologist emphasizes that to understand why the weather affects us, we must take into account the evolution of our species.
“We are beings that have been adapting genetically since we were primates and that, although our body has changed, so has our brain. We must not forget where we come from”, he comments.
The specialist remembers that animals have long periods of rest, since the brain interprets that when it’s cold, the season of hibernation.
“In our case, the human brain, to adapt in the best possible way, tunes in with the environment. That is, we regulate ourselves on the basis of what our brain perceives from the outside thanks to the senses, for example, light, heat, cold, etc. In this way, if there is hardly any sunlight, the brain perceives that the best way to tune in to the weather at that time is through the production of melatonin so that we are at rest. Melatonin is a sleep-regulating hormone, which contributes to the feeling of tiredness and sleepiness. The body interprets that, when there are gray or rainy days, we must be hibernating”, he explains.
“The inheritance we have from our primitive brain understands neither work rhythms nor social obligations. However, our rational human brain knows that we must continue with our tasks, whether there are sunny days or not,” he says.
He also adds that thanks to research into our biological tendency, we can anticipate and understand that, on days with fewer hours of sunlight, we may have more difficulty being productive or feeling in a better mood , which is why it is especially important to take care of yourself as much as possible in these seasons.
Del Olmo expresses that, once we know what factors they are the ones that influence our mood as a result of time; we can create our own strategies to readjust ours circadian rhythms in the most adaptive way possible.
Circadian rhythms are biological cycles which last close to 24 hours a day.
This is, for example, the blood concentration of hormones like melatonin, from lat body temperature or of the cycle wakefulness-sleep, among others. Our biological clock synchronizes these rhythms with the external environment.
The specialists from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the United States explain that the biological clocks they are natural devices that regulate the cycle of circadian rhythms.
They are made up of specific molecules that interact with the body’s cells. “Almost all tissues and organs contain biological clocks”, they clarify.
In addition, there is a master clock that coordinates all biological clocks in an organism.
“In vertebrate animals, including humans, the master clock is a group of about 20,000 neurons that form a structure called suprachiasmatic nucleus or NSQ. The NSQ is located in the hypothalamus”, they need.
How can we control our mood?
In this sense, Immaculada del Olmo indicates that a good way to take control of our mood is to try to maintain one regular sleep routinethat is, try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
Another way is to “take advantage of the sunlight as much as possible, going for walks outside, especially during the hours with more natural light, to increase serotonin levels. Besides, keep fit exercising regularly is a good strategy to improve mood, especially if it’s outdoors”, he emphasizes.
Nor should we forget the importance of diet. This must be “balanced, rich in nutrients, to keep hormonal levels regulated”, he points out. To finish, the psychologist recommends “trying to reduce stress with some relaxation techniques to improve your mood, especially if it’s outdoors”, she emphasizes.
Del Olmo stresses that weather can affect our mood in a number of ways, and it’s important to keep this in mind if we’re feeling anxious or depressed.
However, “weather is not the only cause of mental health problems and there are many other factors that can affect our mood. That’s why it’s important to consider aspects such as diet, exercise and interpersonal relationships and, if necessary, seek professional help”, he emphasizes.