Anxiety, Mental health

Can warm weather boost your mental health?

photo of a girl enjoying the warm weather

I never dreamed of living in a country with warm weather year-around until I moved to freezing Finland. This Nordic country that shares its international boundaries with Russia in the east and Norway and Sweden in the north-west sees harsh and long winters each year.

The winter 2016 was the longest I’ve experienced in my life. It snowed this month as well and, at this very moment I’m thinking of purchasing long-sleeve blouses and socks, just to make sure the low temperature won’t take me by surprise next month as well.

There are many studies that link good mental health with warm weather. As you can imagine life in Finland gets quite challenging in November when the long darkness settles and the chilly air slips under your skin. It is not unheard-of that Finns (and foreigners alike) have to start a course of antidepressants at the beginning of winter just to cope with the weather changes.

So, you might ask yourself how does this affect me as a reader?

After some research I’ve done on the impact of cold weather over the physical and mental health and taking in consideration how grumpy I feel throughout the year in Finland, I’ve discovered that warmth and sunshine are strong predictors of happiness.

For those living in countries with unpredictable weather or year-long cold climate, consider that your mental health might be affected by it. Following are the overall effects of living in a warm climate:

1. Warm weather will make you healthier

Remember how sick you tend to get during winter? And how often you missed work because of flu? Health professionals say that it’s not the cold air that affects people’s health but the decreased immunity and lack of exercise.

A study done in 2014 and published in the journal of Ecopsychology discovered that even a short walk in nature when the weather is fine can improve your well-being. The effect of nature walks were: lower stress levels, better mental and physical health.

2. Warm weather improves your creativity

The University of Michigan discovered that being outdoors in the warm summer days improves your cognitive skills. “Being outside in pleasant weather really offers a way to reset your mindset,” says Matthew Keller, one of the author of the study. Keller realized that the participants who spent time in warm weather were happier and focused than those who spent time in a colder climate.

Another finding of the study was that, people’s cognitive skills decreased if they were cooped-up indoors during summer days. That’s because they felt like the indoor activities were less exciting than the outdoor happenings.

3. Your motivation increases when it’s warm outside

I believe that anyone becomes motivated and energized when they know there is the possibility to go outside without worrying their hands will freeze or they’ll get sick from the cold.

Moreover, the thought of staying outside for how long you want can be very exciting. Exercising more often or even walking in nature for longer periods of time improves your concentration and puts you in a better mood.

4. Warm weather and nature walks reduce depression

Some studies talk about the significant effect that good weather combined with outdoor exercising has on mental health. One research done in 2013 found out that group walks improved the mental states of those affected by depression.

If you’re interested to find more information on how being in nature can improve your well-being, read my earlier post ‘How walking in nature can improve your mental health.’

Conclusion

Whether you love summer or not, you got to admit that life is more interesting when you can do a lot of things outside of your home. Imagine how sad it would be to not be able to attend any outdoor music festivals if all summers were cold and rainy.

Along with the excitement that warm weather brings, there is also an increase in cognitive skills, meditative skills and happiness levels.

In Finland, you can only enjoy the benefits of warm weather during July, a month that is considered the warmest here. However, if you want to wear dresses and flip-flops you can skip Finland and head to Spain or Italy. But make sure to come back in December and shake hands with Santa Claus in Lapland. That’s definitely a joy you can’t get during the summer.

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