The nights are getting darker, and the sun isn’t rising till the late morning – British wintertime is fast approaching and the cold, dark days are already proving a challenge to many. But does the weather actually affect our mood or is it just an old wife’s tale?
There’s research piled high on the impact the sun has on our mood, from the essential vitamin D it provides our bodies with, to the increased time we spend outdoors exercising and socialising. There is some evidence to prove that spending time in the sun does increase our mood and boost energy levels, however other studies have shown that you need to spend at least half an hour in direct sunlight for this to take effect, and with many of us sitting in the office or our homes for over 8 hours of the day, a lot of us don’t get outside enough for this to happen.
On the contrary, there are studies that show there is no direct correlation at all between sunlight and human mood and motivation. To support this, Scandinavian countries, where daylight is limited, are ranking top on the list of ‘happiest countries in the world’.
There is however, an interesting debate on how motivation and the weather link to one another, with many people believing that the better the weather the more motivated and productive one is.
Getting up early to face the cold, dark mornings may not be as easy as stepping out to a warm breeze in summer. However, when it comes to working in the office, studies show that productivity actually increases on bad weather days. The distractions are limited and unlike on warm summer days, there isn’t the constant thought of what you could be doing in the sun instead of being bundled up in your office working. It makes sense really.
So why do we get into a ‘winter slump’ if it’s not the weather that’s stopping us from getting stuff done?
Aside from the mental block that some people face, many people just find miserable weather, well… miserable. This decrease in mood is partly psychological and formed from human thought but also physical too, when you’re cold you want to stay inside where it’s warm, therefore you’re going to avoid the chilling walk to the gym, that’s obvious, right?
The human brain is intelligent, it knows how to care for and protect the body, so when it faces an option to either stay comfortable and warm or get into a state of discomfort and cold it’s not going to choose the latter option. So, what does this mean for motivation and productivity in winter? It means you cannot rely on motivation; motivation comes and goes in waves regardless of the weather and staying consistent is the key to all success.
One of my favourite quotes, especially in the colder months is “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. Now let me explain, walking to the gym is going to make you cold, but this is where you can level up your thoughts, what if you’re okay with being cold? It sounds simple but as soon as you change your viewpoint your productivity can shoot up.
Another example: you’re in the office and you notice rain starting to fall and the once blue sky is murky and grey, this upsets you, and you begin wishing for bright skies and sunny days, your mood has dropped significantly, and you feel a lack of motivation to power on through your work for the day. How can we flip this? You can’t stop the rain or clear the skies of the clouds that cover it. But you can learn to dance in the rain and if you can’t do that, you can at least enjoy the fact that you’re warm in your office whilst the cold stays locked outside.
The conclusion that my research has brought me to is that although the weather has no real direct correlation to productivity or ‘motivation’, it does affect our brains and our thoughts which can control us and sometimes even consume us. In winter you begin to fight your thoughts more, putting your body and brain in more uncomfortable circumstances that your body wants to protect you from.
My advice? Don’t rely on motivation to get you through dark days, stay consistent, put yourself in a place of discomfort and be comfortable with it.
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