How Seasons Affect Mood – My Theory

This is an off topic entry just because I felt it was worth writing about. I haven’t been getting much work done on music lately because I’ve felt very tired. It seems to happen every year when the sun starts going down earlier and earlier, and especially once we switch back to Standard Time and it’s dark when I get home from work. I’ve always heard people complaining and saying it’s because there’s less sunlight but I have a different theory.

For the last 10-15 years I’ve been hearing a lot about global warming and within those discussions is the idea that the earth “breathes”. In the spring and summer it breathes in, meaning as the plants come back to life they start taking CO2 out of the atmosphere, processing it and releasing O2. Then in the fall the planet breathes out, meaning that the plants release a lot of CO2 back into the air.

An interesting thing happened this past spring (2014). We had a long cold winter and even the spring seemed unusually cold. Then suddenly around the middle of May the average temperature went up to around 20c. Over the next week I noticed leaves very quickly appearing on all the trees and the grass turning green and all plants coming to back to life during that week.

Not so coincidentally, during the same week I suddenly found myself with incredible amounts of energy! I felt a million times better and just couldn’t sit still. It was during that week that it occurred to me that with all the plants coming back to life so suddenly that in a very short time, in this case only a few days, the air was being transformed around me. A lot of CO2 was being removed and replaced with O2. And since every cell in our bodies needs oxygen it seemed reasonable to assume that they were suddenly getting a lot more of it and the result was a lot more energy!

I’ve also noticed how tired I feel on rainy days. If I wake up (if you can call that ‘waking up’!) and feel like my body has turned to stone and just doesn’t want to move, it’s a pretty sure bet that it’s a rainy day. On rainy days the barometric pressure drops, so again, it seems reasonable to assume that we are getting less O2 because of the lower pressure. This is similar to how we might feel if we went up a mountain and camped overnight at 6000 feet. Being unused to that lower air pressure I’m sure we would feel very tired and it would probably be quite noticeable in all of our muscles. Even our thinking and reflexes might be slower. So again, less O2 equates to less energy and more of a feeling of being tired and just wanting to lie down and go to sleep.

This brings us to Autumn when the leaves fall off the trees and a lot of plants die and release a lot of CO2, The remaining plants either stop producing O2 or function at a much reduced rate due to significantly less sunlight (shorter days, and many more cloudy days). Again, the air around us is likely being transformed with Oxygen levels being reduced and Carbon Dioxide levels being greatly increased.

And sure enough, as I said, as we go through October and November I find myself feeling more and more tired all the time. I have no energy at all. My creativity dies out and I just want to lie on the couch watching Tv.

Many people seem to believe it’s because there isn’t as much sunlight. They think that energy and enthusiasm is directly related to the amount of available sunlight and this is often backed up by studies that show that some people need to sit in front of sun lamps for a few hours per day through the winter to avoid becoming manically depressed.

Well, obviously we like sunlight and it does help us feel better but my feeling now is that carbon dioxide is the bigger enemy of energy. I have no doubt, at this point, that oxygen levels directly affect our moods and energy and that plants control those levels. In the spring they give us what our cells desire and we suddenly have boundless energy, but in the fall they not only cease giving us the needed oxygen but actually make it even worse by releasing massive amounts of CO2, thus sapping our strength and darkening our mood.

I also wonder if Oxygen levels tend to decrease as the winter goes on. Many of us complained more and more as last year’s winter seemed to go on forever. Could it be that we were feeling more than just the cold? I think a fairly simple study could confirm my suspicions but I personally don’t have the resources to do it.

So that’s my theory. I felt like this needed to be put in writing just in case others noticed the same thing and wanted to hear someone else’s thoughts on the subject.

I’ve done a little searching and although you can find lots of information about the earth “breathing” and a number of articles explaining how oxygen and carbon dioxide levels affect our mood, I cant find a single one that puts the two of them together. So hopefully this helps others understand their own great mood and energy swings that happen each spring and fall and maybe why winter seems to feel worse and worse the longer it goes on.

And hopefully I can fight through it and create some more music!

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