Are peo­ple hap­pier in the sum­mer?

Irish Independent - - SCIENCE OF SUMMER - An­drew P. Allen An­drew P. Allen is a psy­cho­log­i­cal re­searcher with the Ali­men­tary Pharmabi­otic Cen­tre and De­part­ment of Psy­chi­a­try, UCC. You can read his blog at http://an­drewspsy­chol­o­g­

IF you’re star­ing into a com­puter screen for 10 hours a day, you may not feel that the chang­ing of the sea­sons has much of an im­pact on your mood. How­ever, with the com­ing of sum­mer you’re likely to tear your­self away from the desk for a hol­i­day.

A pa­per in The In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of

Tourism Re­search found that peo­ple did report high lev­els of pos­i­tive mood for most of their hol­i­days. How­ever, dur­ing the first 10pc of their hol­i­day they did not report high lev­els of pos­i­tive mood.

The au­thors re­ferred to this first 10pc of the hol­i­day as the “travel phase”. So you may not en­joy the trip to your des­ti­na­tion. But six months later, when win­ter rolls around, your mem­ory may be se­lec­tive. You re­call the long sunny hours on the beach but not the mis­er­able bus jour­ney.

Be­sides hol­i­days, what about the fact that the days are longer dur­ing the sum­mer? An ingenious pa­per pub­lished in Sci­ence used posts from Twit­ter to ex­am­ine thou­sands of peo­ple’s re­ported mood over the chang­ing sea­sons.

The re­search found that over­all length of day­light didn’t make a dif­fer­ence in terms of peo­ple’s re­ported pos­i­tive mood. How­ever,

changes in day­light length did. So the ap­proach of mid­sum­mer seems to in­crease pos­i­tive feel­ings.

Sea­sonal af­fec­tive disor­der (SAD), a form of de­pres­sion that hits dur­ing par­tic­u­lar times of year, is more likely to strike dur­ing the win­ter months.

Light treat­ment, which in­volves ex­po­sure to bright light, can be used to fight the “win­ter blues”. A re­cent study pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Psy­chi­a­try looked at peo­ple with sea­sonal af­fec­tive disor­der pre­and post-light ther­apy (two weeks of twice daily 45-minute light ses­sions). What’s in­ter­est­ing is they also com­pared this to mood the fol­low­ing sum­mer. The find­ings sug­gest that peo­ple had the best mood over­all dur­ing the sum­mer months.

So it seems the glow of your desk­top or smart­phone is no sub­sti­tute for the sum­mer sun!

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