Weathering the Weather: The Role Cloudy Days Play on your Mind

Health

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. –  We saw more cloudy days in Little Rock than Seattle in March.

There were 25 days of mostly cloudy to cloudy days in Little Rock, compared to 21 days in Seattle. That’s over three weeks of gray days for Little Rock.

Additionally, Seattle saw more days of more sun than clouds at 10, compared to six in the Rock.

National Weather Service qualifies a sunny day as: 0% to 12% cloud cover on average, a mostly sunny day as: 12% to 38% average cloud cover, a partly sunny day as: 38% to 63% average cloud cover, a mostly cloudy day as: 63% to 88% average cloud cover & a cloudy day as 88%+ average cloud cover.

Looking back to February, over half the month was gray with 17 days of mostly cloudy to cloudy conditions. 

The lack of sunshine, combined with additional indoor time due to COVID-19, can take a toll on some people’s mental health.

“Not enough sunlight can affect your ‘internal clock’ or circadian rhythm,” says Passion Unlimited Counseling & Consulting CEO and Therapist Christina Hopson-Allen.

She says that disruption may lead to feelings of depression.

“Changes in seasons can also affect your body’s melatonin and serotonin; these are natural neurotransmitters that regulate our emotional well-being ,” adds Hopson-Allen.

Not everyone is affected by changes in weather, but for those who feel like their mood alters with the lack of sunshine, there are some signs to look out for. Hopson-Allen says some of these are:

  • Depressed mood – not wanting to do things you would normally enjoy 
  • Problems sleeping – maybe oversleeping or difficulty staying awake, or maybe disturbed sleep, can’t stay asleep and waking up through the night.
  • Anxiety – worrying, easily irritated 
  • Feeling moody 
  • Feeling fatigued, difficulty doing your normal routine 
  • Overeating – may result in weight gain 
  • Not responding to texts or calls, avoiding others 
  • Feeling worthless or hopeless 

If these symptoms are persistent in relation to the changes in weather, it could be seasonal affective disorder or SAD.

“SAD is a seasonal form of major depression. It usually occurs in the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight, although some people experience SAD during spring and summer months,” says Hopson-Allen.

About 5% of the US population experiences SAD, and it is more common among women, she says.

People diagnosed with SAD experience symptoms about 40% of the year, and the rest of the time they feel normal.

For those affected by more gray days and/or inside time, here are some tips to help cope:

  • Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, sit outside on your porch, get fresh air 
  • Light therapy. This involves 20 to 60 minutes of daily exposure to cool, white florescent light, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. 
  • Projects: get busy at home or in your workshop, or Spring cleaning.
  • Family game night 
  • Stress management: relax, listen to music, take a warm bath 
  • Cooking
  • Exercise at home 
  • Stop eating junk food: choose healthier snacks 
  • Make an appointment with a therapist. Online counseling is a great way to talk with someone from the comfort of your home 

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