Walk in Nice Weather Improves Mood

ByABC News
November 3, 2004, 12:33 PM

Nov. 4, 2004 -- So your candidate lost, and you're in a foul mood. What are you going to do about it? A new study suggests a possible prescription for emotional relief:

As soon as a sunny day comes your way, get outside for at least 30 minutes.

Researchers have tried repeatedly over the years to show some correlation between weather and mood, with mixed and usually unimpressive results, but a study of 600 persons across the United States shows that spending a little time outside on a nice day can make a difference.

The effect isn't "huge," says psychologist Matthew Keller, lead author of a study in an upcoming issue of the journal "Psychological Science," but it's significant.

So many things affect mood, like elections and personal expectations, that weather isn't likely to be a major player, Keller says. But three different studies all came up with the same results. It can make a difference.

Keller was working on his doctorate at the University of Michigan when he began wondering how much effect the weather has on moods.

"Michigan is one of the cloudiest states in the country," he says. "The winters are long and very cloudy. You never see the sun."

So awhile back he buzzed down to Mexico for a little vacation, and discovered that the sun was still up there.

"It made me realize that that's what life is all about. Life has color, life is fun. I tended to forget that during the winters up in Michigan."

So he teamed up with Michigan psychology professors Barbara Frederickson and Oscar Ybarra "to see if there's some sort of interaction" between weather and mood.

It's a tough thing to measure, especially in the industrial world where people spend an average of 93 percent of their time indoors, so the researchers set up three different tests. The first two consisted primarily of asking the participants how much time they had spent outside that day, and then checking with the local weather bureau to correlate their moods with the weather. The results depended largely upon the participants describing their own moods to the investigators.