FIRST ALERT: Why are we sad and tired on cloudy days?

Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 6:16 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As many of you know anytime it’s cloudy or rainy outside, most of us just want to stay inside and watch TV rather than being outside and being proactive. But why?

WMBF First Alert Meteorologist Matt Bullock spoke to Dr. Terry Pettijohn, a psychology professor at Coastal Carolina University, about how weather plays a role in our moods.

“Some of them are physiological and then there are psychological. In terms of the physiology of it, we need the sun. The sun actually helps us manage our brain neurotransmitters and so if we have too much or too little, some of these neurotransmitters will make us feel bad,” said Pettijohn.

Pettijohn has been teaching psychology at CCU for 15 years.

He said the sunshine helps us produce serotonin. It’s a chemical in our bodies that makes us feel happy. That chemical is produced by sunlight. But what happens when it’s a cloudy day and we don’t get enough serotonin?

“We also have the pituitary gland that when we get ready for bed, we typically turn the lights out, so on a day where there’s no sun, it’s kinda like recreating where it’s dark and, ‘OK it’s time for me to cool my body down, it’s time for me to get prepared to sleep.’ So melatonin is produced in these cases and that helps us fall asleep,” explained Pettijohn.

What Pettijohn is saying is that basically on cloudy days, melatonin is mixed with our neurotransmitters, and it makes us feel tired.

But their other reasons why weather affects our mood.

“We come to learn the association between if it’s nice outside, there’s different types of activities we can do in those cases. People are more likely to tip at restaurants, they’re more likely to spend money in stores, they’re more likely to do outside activities, it gets them moving and active. These activities will spur our neurotransmitters and make them feel better,” said Pettijohn.

The weather can also impact your everyday happiness.

“If you think about if you lived in a place with a lot of snow and cold. You’re not taking the kids to the playground, maybe you’re not playing tennis, you’re not doing a lot of these outdoor activities, and if those are important to you and your physical health then you have to make decisions on things like that,” said Pettijohn.

But not only does the weather affects our moods, but it also affects our behavior.

Pettijohn said he has done research on music preferences related to seasons.

He found out that people in the fall or winter months, actually prefer music that’s more complex and more integrative and gets them thinking. In the summer months, people actually prefer music that’s more energetic and rhythmic.

During these changes in the weather, we can also see a change in people’s moods, which is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

“The start of winter months or summer months is where people fall to these periods of depression that are related to different types of seasons,” said Pettijohn.

So if you have the winter blues, there are ways to combat that.

Pettijohn said you can try to do some kind of physical activity.

There are also different types of light therapy that sometimes people use or just turning all the lights on in your house can make a difference in terms of changing your mood. He also suggested redirecting your energy to hobbies or passions to help compensate for the weather.

If that doesn’t work for you, Pettijohn said for those who have longer periods of seasonal affective disorder to talk to a mental health expert.