I’m not moody, I just need Vitamin D
Recently, I’ve been experiencing a vitamin D deficit, thanks to slow-moving low pressure, dreary gray skies, and thick clouds overhead. Spring is at its finest.
There is something to be said for mood changes when the weather is cloudy vs. sunny. In fact, with the weather so miserable, I’ve found myself reading medical articles online on the impacts of sunshine and our mood.
15 minutes a day
Turns out, my mom was right, and maybe yours is too! My mom always told me to get at least 15 minutes of sunshine a day. As a meteorologist and nature lover, I've never found this to be difficult. What mom taught me food isn't a great source of vitamin D, but sunlight is the best source.
Case in point, a survey conducted in the United Kingdom found that half of the population suffered a vitamin D deficiency. That’s a problem! Especially when vitamin D is essential for muscle health, calcium absorption, low blood pressure, and overall immune health.
A sunny mood is a thing
One of the most common comments I get on my social media is people commenting on my smile, or my positive attitude. I hope that doesn’t sound prideful. Anyway, I contribute a large part of that “sunny mood” or “sunny attitude” to vitamin D. My mood is 1000% better on sunny days vs. cloudy days.
Brigham Young University researched the link between weather variables and changes in mental health, with sunlight having the most notable impact. Increased time in the sun correlated to decreased emotional distress (3). Sunlight increases serotonin, and serotonin makes you happen.
Who needs blackout curtains, give me sunlight
Alright, maybe keep the blackout curtains. Especially if you’re like me and have to wake up for work at 2 or 3 am. Serotonin, the happy hormone, and melatonin, the sleep hormone, are best friends. When you’re outside and soaking up the sunshine, you are also soaking up serotonin. Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin. By intaking serotonin during the day, at night, the brain can better lull you to sleep by producing melatonin.
Where is the sun?
Those pesky sunlight blockers! How they frustrate me on days when I really just need some sunshine and blue skies. There are a couple of culprits responsible for blocking out sunlight.
First up, is the stratus cloud. These thick and lightly colored clouds coat the sky in a uniform layer. If they continue to develop and thicken, they may produce light rain or drizzle and are often the precursor of nimbostratus clouds.
Next, are the nimbostratus clouds. These clouds are better than others because they produce essential rainfall and sometimes snow. On the flip side, the precipitation is persistent, lasting several hours or even several days. The clouds are dark grey and featureless. They are thick clouds and can completely block out the sun. Typically, they will develop along a frontal boundary or a low-pressure type cyclone.
Altostratus is another midlevel cloud that creates a uniform gray or a bluish color across the sky. While not as thick as stratus and nimbostratus, they limit warming even with the sun peaking through. Looking at the sun through altostratus is similar to looking through a foggy glass window. Light precipitation may develop when these clouds are overhead.
Finally, we come to the cumulus. These may come in the form of fair-weather cumulus, or if there is enough vertical motion, they develop into a storm cloud. Cumulus clouds have a lumpy appearance, almost like cotton balls. On a summer day, cumulus may develop in the afternoon if some moisture is present and there is rising motion due to warm surface temperatures. In this case, they are generally broken or in splotches across the sky, allowing some sunlight through.
There you have it! You have every excuse you need to spend more time outdoors than you otherwise would. Don’t let anyone keep you inside.