It may seem a stupid question. Which morning would you rather wake up to? One where the sun is streaming through the window? Or one where the rain is pouring down the pane?
The problem is that whilst we might believe we feel happier and more motivated when the sun is out, the facts seem to be conflicting.
Does sunshine equal happiness?
A host of research projects have been carried out into the sun’s effect on our moods, with many indicating a positive connection between increased sunshine and a happier disposition.
For example, one study by US psychology researcher Matthew Keller and colleagues showed that warm and sunny conditions do have a positive effect on people’s mood. However, this was only when they spent more than half an hour outdoors on any one day.
As one estimate suggests that people in industrialised societies typically spend only 7% of their time outdoors, this definitely puts the onus on the individual to go out and find their own happiness.
But what of the studies that say getting out in the sun will make no difference to our mood at all?
No sun, no problem
Somewhat confusingly, there have been numerous research projects carried out which indicate that there is no clear correlation between the amount of sunshine we get and how happy we feel.
In fact, according to 2012 statistics on national wellbeing, the happiest places in the UK are actually those that get the least sunshine.
Inhabitants of Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides all turned out to be the happiest, despite seeing an average of 1,000 hours of sunshine per year compared to the UK average of 1,340 hours.
On an international level, the story is much the same. Year after year, the Scandinavian countries typically rank as the happiest countries in the world, with Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and Norway topping the happiness league in 2015.
In fact, it seems that good weather days may actually leave us feeling less productive.
Bad weather is great for work
Think the sunshine leaves you more motivated at work? Think again.
In one study, “Rainmakers: Why Bad Weather Means Good Productivity,” researchers set tasks for participants, some of whom carried out the tasks on sunny days and others on rainy days.
Before starting these tasks, the researchers asked 198 people how they thought the good and bad weather would affect productivity.
Interestingly, 82.32% felt that good weather conditions would increase their productivity, whilst 82.83% said that bad weather conditions would decrease productivity.
Whilst this might well reflect our general idea that sunny weather leaves us more upbeat and motivated, the research showed something completely different.
In fact, the research found that the rainy-day group was most productive, as they were not tempted or distracted by ideas of outdoor activities on sunny days.
In addition, the researchers found that showing rainy-day workers photographs of sunny days significantly decreased their performance by distracting them from their tasks.
However, even if it there is some debate over whether sunshine makes us happier or more productive, there is no denying it is vital for our wellbeing.
The health benefits of sunshine
Although there may be no proven link between sunshine and happiness in the general population, some people, such as sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, may feel the benefits of sunshine much more keenly than others.
A form of depression, SAD affects approximately one in 15 people in the UK between September and April, according to NHS estimates.
The fact that SAD often improves and disappears in the spring and summer, with symptoms typically worst in the dark winter months, indicates a real correlation between sunshine and happiness for SAD sufferers.
What’s more, sunshine brings a host of health benefits that are good for everyone. From increasing energy levels to keeping bones and teeth healthy, sunshine is essential for our wellbeing and much of this is down to Vitamin D.
That is because our bodies need the UVB radiation from sunlight to make this vital, health-boosting vitamin. In fact, 90 percent of our vitamin D is made naturally from sunlight exposure to our skin.
However, to produce sufficient Vitamin D, most people need approximately 5 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight a day, 3 times a week, without any sun protection: another good incentive to get out there and enjoy those rays!
So, when all is said and done, the sun is definitely good for us and no matter what the researchers say most of us will always believe that a sunny day is a happy day.
Are you planning an escape to the sun?
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