How weather impacts people's mental health

Weather is an integral part of our lives, shaping our daily routines, activities, and even our moods. While it's common to hear people discuss how they feel on a sunny day versus a rainy one, the relationship between weather and mental health is a topic that deserves more attention. The weather can significantly impact our emotional well-being, and understanding this connection can help us better navigate our mental health on days when the skies are less than sunny.


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

One of the most well-documented weather-related mental health conditions is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that occurs at specific times of the year, typically during the fall and winter months when daylight hours are shorter, and the weather tends to be gloomy. The reduced exposure to natural light can disrupt our circadian rhythms and lead to symptoms such as fatigue, sadness, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns.

Conversely, some people experience 'summer depression', where the heat and long daylight hours can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and restlessness. These seasonal variations highlight the significant influence that weather can have on our mental well-being.

The sun's impact on mood

Sunlight can play a crucial role in regulating our mood and mental health. Exposure to natural light stimulates the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being and happiness. On sunny days, many people report feeling more energised, motivated, and in better spirits. However, when gloomy weather persists for extended periods, our serotonin levels may drop, leading to symptoms of depression and anxiety.

In regions with long, harsh winters, such as northern latitudes, the lack of sunlight during winter can be particularly challenging. This can lead to a phenomenon known as 'winter blues', which shares some characteristics with SAD but is generally less severe.

Weather and anxiety

Weather conditions can also trigger or exacerbate anxiety disorders. Stormy weather, for example, may induce anxiety in people with phobias related to thunder, lightning, or severe weather events. Additionally, the unpredictability of weather patterns can cause stress and anxiety in individuals who prefer routine and predictability.

Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, wildfires, and floods, can have profound and long-lasting effects on mental health. The trauma and disruption caused by these events can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety-related conditions.

Weather and social isolation

Extreme weather conditions, including heavy snowfall or intense heatwaves, can limit outdoor activities and social interactions. People may be less likely to engage in social gatherings or exercise, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Social isolation is a known risk factor for poor mental health, and prolonged isolation due to inclement weather can exacerbate existing mental health conditions.

How can counselling help?

Counselling can be a valuable resource for individuals who experience mood disturbances triggered by weather-related factors. Here's how counselling can help people identify strategies to manage their moods when weather is a trigger:

Assessment and understanding

An assessment is the first step in counselling for weather-triggered mood issues. Counsellors work with clients to understand the nature and extent of their weather-related mood disturbances. They explore when and how these mood changes occur and gather information about the individual's specific symptoms and challenges.

Identifying triggers

Weather-related mood disturbances can have various triggers, such as lack of sunlight, overcast skies, extreme temperatures, or seasonal changes. Counsellors help clients pinpoint the specific weather-related triggers that affect them most. This identification is crucial because it allows individuals to develop targeted strategies.


Counsellors provide education about the link between weather and mood. Understanding how weather affects one's mood on a physiological and psychological level can reduce feelings of confusion and frustration. Clients gain insights into the impact of factors like light exposure, temperature, and seasonal changes on their emotional well-being.

Goal setting

Setting specific, achievable goals related to mood management during adverse weather conditions is essential. Counsellors work with clients to establish realistic objectives and help them track progress toward these goals over time.

Monitoring progress

Counselling is an ongoing process, and clients regularly check in with their counsellors to discuss their progress and make adjustments to their strategies as needed. Weather patterns and individual circumstances change, so strategy may need to evolve over time.

Psychological support

For individuals who experience significant distress due to weather-related mood disturbances, counselling can provide a safe space to express their feelings and fears. Counsellors offer emotional support and help clients build resilience to cope with these challenges.

Mediation and mindset shifts

Counsellors may work with clients on cognitive behavioural strategies to change negative thought patterns related to weather-triggered mood changes. Shifting one's mindset and reducing the emotional impact of weather-related triggers can be a valuable strategy.

8 coping strategies that may help

Coping strategies are tools individuals can use to help manage their mood and emotional well-being when triggered by weather-related factors. Coping strategies help people effectively navigate the challenges posed by changing weather conditions, reduce the impact of mood disturbances, and improve overall mental health.

Here are some coping strategies for weather-triggered mood disturbances:

1. Light therapy

Light therapy or phototherapy involves exposure to bright, artificial light that mimics natural sunlight. It is a well-established treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It can also be helpful for individuals whose mood is affected by reduced sunlight during the fall and winter months. 

2. Seasonal routine and activity planning

  • Indoor activities: During periods of adverse weather, especially when outdoor activities are limited, having a list of enjoyable indoor activities can be immensely helpful. Clients can work with their counsellors to create a personalised list of hobbies, projects, or interests they can pursue indoors.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity boosts mood and reduces the impact of weather-related mood disturbances. Counsellors can assist clients in developing an exercise plan that suits their preferences and can be adapted to indoor settings when necessary.

3. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

  • Mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness techniques can help individuals stay grounded and reduce stress and anxiety. Counsellors can teach mindfulness meditation practices that focus on the present moment, allowing individuals to observe their thoughts and feelings without judgement.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: This technique involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups. It can help alleviate physical tension and promote relaxation, even when the weather is causing stress.

4. Weather tracking and journaling

  • Weather journal: Keeping a weather journal alongside a mood journal can help individuals identify patterns and connections between weather conditions and their emotional state. Counsellors can guide what information to record and how to interpret it effectively.
  • Anticipatory planning: With the help of a counsellor, clients can learn to anticipate weather changes and proactively implement coping strategies as needed. For instance, they can plan relaxing activities for rainy days or ensure they have adequate sunlight exposure during the winter months.

5. Social support

  • Social connections: Staying connected with friends and family during challenging weather conditions can provide emotional support and reduce feelings of isolation. Counsellors can help clients develop communication and socialisation plans.
  • Support groups: Some individuals may benefit from joining support groups for those affected by similar weather-related mood disturbances. Counsellors can provide information on available groups and help clients connect with them.

6. Goal setting and monitoring progress

  • SMART goals: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals related to mood management during adverse weather can help individuals stay motivated and track their progress. Counsellors work with clients to set realistic objectives and milestones.
  • Regular check-ins: Counselling is an ongoing process, and clients should have regular sessions to discuss their progress and make necessary adjustments to their coping strategies.

7. Psychological support

  • Emotional expression: Counselling provides a safe space for clients to express their feelings, fears, and frustrations related to weather-triggered mood disturbances. Counsellors offer emotional support and assist in processing these emotions.
  • Building resilience: Counsellors help clients build resilience and develop coping mechanisms to navigate challenging weather conditions with greater emotional stability.

8. Cognitive behavioural strategies

Cognitive behavioural techniques can help individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns related to weather-induced mood changes. A counsellor can guide clients in shifting their mindset and adopting more positive and constructive thinking.

How can Hope Therapy & Counselling Services Help?

Hope Therapy & Counselling Services has an experienced team of counsellors and therapists who work with various presentations, including mood disorders. To learn more about the services we offer or to book in with a member of the team, visit our profile.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Stroud GL5 & Gloucester GL1
Written by Hope Therapy & Counselling Services
Stroud GL5 & Gloucester GL1

Hope Therapy & Counselling Services are dedicated to providing comprehensive and compassionate mental health and wellbeing support to individuals, couples, and families. Our team of experienced and qualified counsellors & therapists are committed to helping clients navigate life's challenges...

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