Most of us don't need to rewatch The Shining to be convinced that winter weather can affect people psychologically. Thankfully, snow and ice don't turn most of us into hatchet-wielding psychos, but just about everyone who has lived through a long, cold winter will tell you that months of gloomy weather can sap your energy and dull your mood.

But what about the opposite -- when the sun returns again in the spring, how does that affect our psychology?

Anecdotal evidence from my college days suggests one big effect is a strong drop in motivation to attend early morning basement lectures. You may have noticed a similar disinterest in spending time on dull, indoor activities (like work). But is there a more scientific answer to this question?

A recent spate of unseasonably warm weather in New York spurred the New York Times' Jonathan Wolfe to contact clinical psychologist Vinita Mehta to get a research-backed rundown of all the ways sunny spring days affect us. She named four:

  • We may be more helpful. "In a 2013 study, four research assistants posed as hitchhikers on a roadside in France. Researchers analyzed drivers' behavior in 2,864 hitchhiking cases, noting if the weather was sunny or cloudy. Drivers were more inclined to stop on sunny days," reports Wolfe.
  • We may spend more money. "A 2010 study on retail sales found that as exposure to sunlight increased, consumer spending also tended to increase." Perhaps you should you check the weather report before running promotions then.
  • It may elevate our mood. This one is probably no shocker, but this bit of everyday wisdom is backed by research, including this 2008 German study.
  • It may put us in the mood for love. Again, not the surprise of the century, but this truth could prove useful for those looking for love. "In a 2013 study, a 20-year-old male research assistant stopped unaccompanied young women, chatted with them and asked for their telephone numbers during sunny or cloudy weather. The women were more likely to give their numbers on a sunny day," explains Wolfe.

If you're still wading through snow drifts in your part of the country, check out the complete article for more details on what you can expect when the weather finally warms up (and hopefully, a little kick of motivation to help you make it through the rest of winter).

Do you notice your behavior and personality shifting with the return of sunny weather?

Published on: Mar 6, 2017
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