The Mental Health Benefits of Warmer Weather

As the winter months give way to spring, warmer weather and sunnier days are set to arrive. This changing of the seasons stands to do more than melt the snow and bring forth greenery after months of bitter cold. In fact, emerging research demonstrates that an increase in daylight hours, sunshine, and temperatures can carry tangible benefits for mental health and mood.

Seasonal affective disorder, aptly abbreviated “S.A.D.,” is a prime example. What is seasonal affective disorder? Quite simply, a form of depression that corresponds with the colder, darker winter months in regions far from the equator. Symptoms such as a lack of energy, increased desire to sleep, difficulty concentrating, and hopelessness are not uncommon. However, as seasons change, milder temperatures and extended daylight can alleviate these symptoms for those with seasonal depression.

Of course, one need not be diagnosed with S.A.D. to experience a mental boost from spring and summer’s rising mercury and increased sunlight. Studies focused on sun exposure indicate it plays a key role in the brain’s regulation of key neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin, resulting in mood elevation. The mechanisms by which elevated mood and decreased sadness may manifest during warmer months are complex, but the outcomes tend to be simple: feeling more motivated, energetic, and positive.

There are ancillary mental health benefits to spring and summer weather as well. As examined by researchers, heightened sunlight exposure improves sleep quality by calibrating the body’s circadian rhythms. In turn, superior sleep stands to enrich focus, heighten cognitive performance, and regulate emotional responses. Meanwhile, longer daylight hours present opportunities to enjoy leisure activities outdoors, facilitating enhanced life satisfaction. From multiple vantage points, the vernal equinox and subsequent climate change engenders mental wellbeing.

While cooler temperatures return during autumn and winter, the interim warm weather and sunlight need not exclusively be about leisure and relaxation. For those with seasonal defects in mood or energy, or even those simply wishing to capitalize on improved affect, spring and summer can facilitate immense personal growth. So as you welcome warmer weather, know that your mind may be benefiting every bit as much as your day at the beach.

 

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