Does Sunny Weather Help Overall Wellness?

Does Sunny Weather Help Overall Wellness?

Because sunny weather tends to improve mood and overall outlook, it influences how you feel about your recovery

When the sun peaks out from behind the clouds and hits your face, you feel more energized and your mood lightens. That’s because the weather can affect your mood. According to a 2014 article in Huffington Post, increased temperature has a positive effect on a negative mood, and increased wind and decreased sunlight made a negative mood worse. In addition, sunlight influences how tired you feel. In short, the climate outside affects how you feel on the inside, which influences your overall wellness and your recovery from addiction.

There are limits to the benefits of sunny weather. According to a 2008 article in Psych Central, pleasant weather (higher temperature, more sunshine) increased mood and memory. However, this association between mood and weather doesn’t apply in hotter weather. Summertime weather leaves a person with a lower mood, possibly because of the lethargy related to heat.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

If the dreariness of the wintertime leaves you feeling down and discouraged, you might be diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). While some people experiences SAD in the spring and summer months, the majority experience it in the fall and winter. The symptoms of SAD mimic those of depression, and they typically dissipate as spring arrives.

According to the American Psychological Association, symptoms of SAD include:

  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Fatigue
  • Social withdrawal
  • Craving high-carb foods
  • Weight gain
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety

Some people are more prone to SAD than others. According to a 2014 article from the Mayo Clinic, the following factors may increase your likelihood of developing SAD:

Circadian rhythm – The reduction in sunlight in the fall and winter may set off SAD in some people. This decrease disrupts your body’s internal clock (when to wake, when to sleep) and may lead to depressive symptoms. Interestingly, another article from the Mayo Clinic (2006) showed that tweaking the body’s clock by using melatonin helps treat SAD, showing the connection between SAD and circadian rhythm.

Serotonin levels – A drop in serotonin, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that affects mood, may play a role in depression during the winter months. A reduction in sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin levels, which may explain why people tend to get SAD in the winter months (when there is less sunlight).

Gender – SAD is diagnosed in women more often than in men. However, when men experience SAD, their symptoms are more severe than what women experience.

Family history – People diagnosed with SAD may be more likely to have blood relatives who also have SAD. In addition, a family history of depression could also make a person more prone to SAD.

Geography – Seasonal Affective Disorder seems to be more common among people who live far north or south of the equator. This seems logical, since locations further from the equator experience decreased sunlight during the winter and increased sunlight during the spring and summer months.

Age – Younger generations have a higher risk of SAD during winter months, while older adults are at a lower risk. This may be due in part to the differences in neurotransmitter levels and other chemicals between the two age groups.

If you think you may be affected by the seasons, and if you match the previous criteria, talk with a doctor or a therapist. These professionals can determine the extent of the problem and help you manage the symptoms.

Increasing Wellness in Poor Weather

Fortunately, you can take steps to increase your overall wellness when the weather begins to affect you emotionally. The following suggestions will help not only your mood, but can also help you in your continued addiction recovery.

When you feel affected by the weather, you can:

Increase your exposure to sunlight – According to the APA, you can undergo a procedure called light therapy (also known as phototherapy). This simply involves being exposed to very bright light (from a special florescent lamp) for at least 30 minutes a day during the winter. This activity helps stimulate brain chemistry, improving your mood. In addition to light therapy, you can do other things to increase your exposure to sunlight. You can open the blinds and sit closer to windows where the sunlight comes in. You can also take walks outside, eat lunch outside, or even sit at a park. Even when the sky isn’t as bright, a little outdoor light can help improve your mood.

Get exercise – Doctors recommend exercising a minimum of 30 minutes a day. If necessary, you can begin in smaller increments and build up to longer times. If you want to relieve the symptoms more quickly, do a more active workout. Aerobic exercise (like cycling or running on the treadmill) releases chemicals in the brain that are natural endorphins, which help you feel better. In addition, the increased body temperature may produce calming effects. With these natural boosters, you can stave off the cravings for drugs.

Socialize – During the winter months, you may be more prone to isolation due to inclement weather. However, spending time with other people you enjoy can boost your mood and wellness. They give you perspective, support, encouragement, and even help you laugh a bit more.

Consider medication – Some physicians recommend a mild antidepressant during the winter months to help boost your mood. Your doctor can help you find one that will work for you without compromising your ongoing addiction recovery.

These are just a few of the options. The goal is for you to take care of yourself and take proactive steps to keep your mood positive.

Getting Help for Your Addiction

If you need help with an addiction, we are here for you. You can call our toll-free helpline any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can talk with one of our admissions coordinators about your addiction, and together, you can determine how best to proceed. We can even help you find a treatment center in a sunny environment that won’t compromise your mood. Call us today.

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