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How the weather affects our mental health

We are in many ways lucky to have 4 varied seasons here in the UK. It is easy to say ‘enjoy the weather’ when the sky is blue and the sun is out, but what about our wonderfully varied British weather and how much do we know how the weather affects our mental health?

lambs-in-bright-jacketsSpring

New life in the garden brings thoughts of better days after what feels like a long winter. Spring flowers, fruit tee and hedgerow blossom, early rape seed fields, and those early aromas of freshly cut grass. All fill us with a sense of uplifting optimism, don’t they?

Summer

Summer just around the corner and with it should come warmer and definitely longer days to look forward to. We also have many historical positive associations with summer but if we really look, they are always there, we just don’t recognise them.

The length of the day seems to be the thing that most affects us, more than the weather and this is a big factor in seasonally Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is defined by persistent low mood, loss of pleasure in normal daily activities, irritability, tearfulness, stress, anxiety and low self-esteem. It usually starts in the autumn and doesn’t lift till the spring.

Summer Days

Summer days with the warmth on our skin, sunshine providing us Vitamin D which boosts our feelings of wellbeing and helps our bone strength is great, but it is not all good news. Extended periods of heat and intense sunshine can give rise to lethargy, sleepiness, irritability, aggression and anxiety but we tend to not notice this so much.
This last winter was particularly wet and grey but even amongst the dreary short days I was able to find some uplifting moments, even if they were at times from the dry, warm indoors. Have you ever listened to the rain on the windowpane? Pitter, patter like fairies tap dancing. Or the wind as it whistles past in a hurry to get somewhere, with a message?

rainy-walk-with-grandmaExtreme weather

Extreme weather can trigger stress and lower our mood, as it makes daily tasks that much more difficult. Stress fuels, anxiety and in turn depression. Storm clouds can be very dramatic but the contrasts that they present can in themselves be beautiful. They say to look for the silver lining and I was aware of several silver-lined clouds this last winter.

I lived for several years in Wales, reported to be very wet, and in contrast to the south coast, to be fair, it did seem wet. But my time there taught me that there is no such thing as weather that prevents you from going out, just incorrect clothing and shoes.

Snow is something we didn’t have much of here in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire this last winter. But again, snow is something to greet joyfully, so long as you don’t have to travel. It always brings out the child in me.

Even frost has its beauty if you take the time to look. Individual ice molecules that look like stars on close inspection, or a white-covered field at dawn that greens/browns as the sun eventually reaches it.

clouds-on-blue-skySeasons

There is so much variation in our seasons and how weather affects our mental health. Go and see what you notice. Looking for and connecting with these variations encourages reflective moments which are great for encouraging good mental health. It can also help to ground and calm you as you connect with nature again promoting a sense of wellbeing.

Climate change and extreme weather conditions are increasingly broadcast as something to fear feeding our insecurities and unknowns, which leads to anxiety and stress. Extremes like tornadoes rarely occur here in the UK but we have seen increased wind speeds and weather phobias although rare do exist e.g. astraphobia (thunder and lightning). Anxiety based on partial facts and what-ifs is more common e.g. flooding, wind damage, or increased traffic accidents in poor road conditions.

Practicing what I preach with my hypnotherapy training has certainly helped me to reframe many things through the winter of 2019 -2020.

My challenge to you is, with each season see and note what good you can see in the weather.

If you need help and would like to explore how hypnotherapy might help you manage anxiety get in touch.

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