LIFE BALANCE

How the Weather Today Affects Our Behavior

By Temma Ehrenfeld  @temmaehrenfeld
 | 
April 03, 2017

What is the weather like today? Walking out the door and encountering spring or unseasonably sunny skies and warmth in the fall or winter can be a grand gift.

 What is the weather like today? “It’s a grand day out!” Walking out the door and encountering spring or unseasonably sunny skies and warmth in the fall or winter can be like a grand gift. We didn’t expect it, and it’s glorious.

Good weather seems to change our behavior, making us more helpful to strangers and more open to romance and spending money.  

 

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How the weather today affects our behavior

In a 2013 study, four research assistants gathered data while posing as hitchhikers on a roadside in France, on both sunny days and cloudy days. Out of thousands of drivers, both male and female drivers stopped more on the sunny days for the hitchhikers. The study ruled out days when it was raining.  

Consumer spending tends to go up as we get more sunlight, according to a 2010 study on retail sales. So watch out if you find yourself in early spring, walking into a dealership and about to splurge on a top-of the line car. Maybe you could spend a little less.

Even spring fever may actually be thing. When a good-looking 20-year-old male research assistant started conversations with women near his age walking alone on the street, they were more likely to give him a phone number on a sunny day.

Pleasant weather also attracts people to spend time outdoors, which is especially good for your health if you live near greenery or make a point of going to a park. One review of the research concluded that people who live in leafy areas were less likely to die of heart disease.

So can we say that people, overall, are happier in sunnier, warmer times or climates? Not really, when you look at big groups. The effects vary most by individuals. In a 2008 study, more than 1,200 volunteers in Germany kept daily records of their moods over 18 months, which researchers compared against the weather data from nearby weather stations. Although the average mood didn’t vary much with weather, it did dramatically for some. If you tend to be weather-sensitive, it’s likely that more time in the sunlight will lift a bad mood and make you less tired, and a windy day could bring you down.

If you are always down in wintertime, you may have seasonal affective disorder. Low blood levels of vitamin D, which we get from sunlight on the skin, are linked to more signs of depression. These people may have more difficulty obtaining vitamin D from the sun — or need more of it. Low vitamin D levels even have been tied to suicide attempts, in other research.

You may know that you personally are happier with more sunlight and plan on retiring as far south as you can get. But don’t assume your spouse or sister will also benefit from the warm weather. Also, much will depend on whether you actually spend time outdoors and find a community and activities in your new home.

Where to retire

AARP touts these 10 cities as the best sunny places to retire:

  • Asheville, N.C.
  • Grand Junction, Colo.
  • Sarasota, Fla.
  • San Diego, Calif.
  • Las Cruces, N.M.
  • San Luis Obispo, Calif.
  • St. George, Utah
  • Santa Fe, N.M.
  • Bend, Ore.
  • Fort Worth, Texas

 

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Updated:  

April 03, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN