As I write this, it’s blowing a gale outside and my windows are being lashed with rain. The sky is grey for as far as the eye can see – and it’s the height of summer. Our swimming pool is exposed to the elements, its cover blown in with leaves and other debris being swished about in the water by a gusty wind. Everything in the garden looks ‘gone over’. It’s as if Autumn has arrived early while I am still waiting for Spring.
Apart from a week-long, intense burst of heat, which triggered the UK’s first Extreme Heat Warning, changeable weather has been the dominant force for the past few months. All in all, rather depressing…
In addition to being a natural source of Vitamin D, sunlight releases mood-enhancing serotonin in the brain. So, when we get protracted spells of gloomy weather, especially in August, it should come as no surprise that low mood affects many of us. It’s not only our emotional wellbeing that is impacted.
Lack of sun is also known to:
- Throw healthy diets off-balance, with more of us eating comfort foods
- Reduce the amount of physical exercise we undertake
- Limit social interactions
- Interrupt sleep patterns
Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Summer?
It’s not impossible. While Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that usually impacts people during the winter months, a poor summer can amplify and extend symptoms. As well as suffering from long periods of low mood, sufferers also experience a lack of energy and loss of interest in every-day activities. Lethargy can set in, leaving the sufferer devoid of motivation. Just as bad, they can crave foods that have high fat content while having limited nutritional value.
This year, probably more than any other, we have all longed for the summer months. After a long, hard winter in lockdown, the sun offered true respite from one of the most frightening and deadly periods in modern history. To have that one bit of hope snatched away – and with such regularity – is depressing.
According to health experts at the NHS, lack of sunlight increases the body’s production of the hormone melatonin, which makes us feel sleepy. At the same time, the brain is producing less serotonin which, as well as being key to boosting our sense of happiness, also regulates the appetite.
All this knocks out our body clock, making regular sleep patterns hard to maintain. Weight gain, mental health problems and poor diet are more likely.
Fiona Osborn, of Total Wellness, has written an interesting article on How Sunlight Affects Your Mood.
What Studies Say About Sunlight
The correlation between overall mental health and exposure to the sun has been documented in studies stretching back decades.
Research conducted by Matthew C. Keller, Barbara L. Fredrickson, Oscar Ybarra, and Stéphane Côté at universities in the United States and Canada in 2005, noted improved outcomes for those spending more time outside in ‘pleasant’ weather. There is a school of thought that says spending time outdoors in any weather is more beneficial than simply not venturing out at all. It’s probably why even a short walk can boost energy levels and increase the sense of wellbeing.
Other studies have shown that weather extremes are damaging to health. In fact, high temperatures are linked to heart and lung issues, including asthma attacks and allergies caused by high pollen counts. So, it’s all about striking an impossible balance.
If you are feeling fed up with the weather, try not to let it get you down. Take some time out to rediscover a former interest or hobby. Reconnect with friends and relatives, and don’t be afraid to give yourself some ‘down time’. Make space in your life for exercise and think twice about what you are putting on your plate.
Here’s to some better weather in the not too distant future!
Further reading on this website: How To Ensure Stress Does Not Accelerate The Ageing Process
Today’s Note To Readers: The protracted spell of poor weather has given me time to consider adding some new lines to our Regime Direct makeup range. Under consideration are brow kits, bright metallic eyeshadows and smoothing banana powder. Watch this space for updates. Thanks to volunteers at Knitted Knockers, I am now wearing post op bras. The NHS prosthesis was so heavy, I could not wear it – other than for ‘special occasions’, such as having my photo taken or going out for a meal, etc. It’s great to be able to wear close-fitting clothes again and to get my shape back. I’ve been a frump for far too long!