How Warm Weather Improves Mental Health
You have probably heard that the heat can damage your mental health. But is that true?
How can a good day’s worth of sun and sand impact our moods? We talked to Dr. Jordan Sudberg, a pain management specialist at the Rhythm & Movement Therapy Center, who has conducted his research on this topic — he found that sunshine and warm weather in general boosts moods significantly.
Here’s what else he had to say: “Warm temperature increases levels of endorphins in your brain which leads to natural euphoria. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is depression associated with shortening of daylight hours that can be treated with light therapy or antidepressants. The brain releases endorphins in the presence of sunlight and serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter associated with positive mood.”
Other health benefits of warm weather
Dr. Sudberg also notes that warm weather can boost your physical health if you use sunscreen and don’t overdo it. “Outside temperature influences your body’s temperature on the inside,” he says, “and if you are too cold or hot, it strains the body. Plus, sunlight is directly linked to vitamin D production in your skin, which helps regulate mood.”
How to get the most happiness from warm weather
How can you take advantage of this free therapy? Dr. Sudberg suggests a few ways: “Just spending time outside in fresh air can be therapeutic.
Before you pack up your winter sweaters and move to a tropical island, Dr. Sudberg advises some caution. He says people who live in places with a more drastic change in seasons should follow their doctor’s advice when handling seasonal changes. Even though warm temperatures can lift spirits, it’s also important to remember that extreme heat has physical health risks. He recommends: “It is vital to stay hydrated and keep your body out of the sun, wear a hat and sunglasses. The best way to stay cool is through walking, jogging, swimming, or jumping in a pool.”
Dr. Sudberg says that if you have a mental illness or take antidepressants, going outside in extreme temperatures can be especially dangerous. He advises people to stay hydrated, limit their time outdoors, and closely monitor the weather reports. If you know you’re at risk of getting overheated or dehydrated, he recommends staying indoors all together during the hottest parts of the day.
He also recommends that people who live in warmer climates limit their time outdoors during the hottest parts of the day and keep themselves hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
And if you’re taking medication: “Double check with your psychiatrist or pharmacist before going to a warm destination,” he says. Antidepressants, in particular, can make people more sensitive to the sun, even if they don’t necessarily increase your chances of getting a sunburn.
Overall, Dr. Jordan Sudberg says that warm weather makes people happier because of its benefits to physical health. He summarizes: “When it is hot, we are happy because our bodies are at peak performance. Our skin looks great when it’s warm. Our hearts beat faster when our body temperature increases, giving us more oxygen.”