Sean Cain, an associate professor of psychology at Monash University, said that humans have specialized photoreceptors in the eyes that feed information to areas of the brain associated with mood regulation and biological clocks. Sunlight can also have a positive effect on the fear center of the brain, he says.
His team at the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience found that plenty of light (there was little light on the ground this spring and early summer) can actually improve our mood. We miss it.
“We generally feel better when we’re exposed to a lot of light,” Kane said. “When the weather is gloomy and dark, we directly feel that we are not in a good mood.
“When you’re out on a sunny day, you’re getting a lot of light, and that perception directly impacts the circadian rhythm of light reception, which is why light therapy works, and you feel great on sunny days.
“We are more outgoing and motivated to do things; in dim light, we are more introspective and more inwardly focused.”
Jo Forgas, a professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said that even if the weather is bad, there is good news.
“Interestingly, negativity has been associated with some surprising benefits — people tend to pay more attention to the world around them when they’re in a bad mood,” Forgas said.
“And we found that people paid more attention to and remembered more accurately what they saw when they were shopping than when they were in a good mood on a sunny day.”
This suggests that negative emotions have an evolved signaling function, “operating like a mild alarm signal, triggering more careful, focused and deliberate thinking strategies”.
Melbourne record label boss Aiden Baxter has experienced symptoms of seasonal depression in the cold weather, which has hampered his ability to enjoy his musical passion.
“As soon as winter hits, I kind of give up on my passions and the motivation to experience them,” Baxter said.
“I just find it totally bland overall.”
Baxter said he had trouble functioning and focusing, and his symptoms led to a breakup in a romantic relationship.
“It made me less of an emotional, loving, heartfelt partner.”
Summer brings some hope; Baxter is looking forward to soaking up the sun in Brisbane while visiting family for Christmas.
Dr Ben Bullock, senior lecturer in psychology at Swinburne University, said most people who said they were unhappy when the weather looked bad did not suffer from diagnosable seasonal affect Handicap Mental Health Conditions.
But that “doesn’t take away from the fact that people can feel depressed, sad, lethargic or lacking in energy when the skies are always gray.”
“this [group of emotions] It does seem to be associated with these periods, particularly with our winters in Melbourne,” he said.
“Some people are biologically more susceptible to seasonal mood; some have a more sensitive system for recognizing and absorbing light, and the body is able to use it.”
But Bullock said the small sample of his own households that the school opened on Friday offered promise for the future.
“Everyone in the car is happier because it’s sunny. It’s about sunshine and happiness… enjoying the warmth,” he said.
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