Spring break weather in Michigan is always a roll of the dice, but this year, with such a mild overall winter and no more snow in site, it looked as if Old Man Winter had cast his sights elsewhere for the season. Until he looped back around. While it appeared as if almost everyone was headed south for the week, those who stayed behind were treated to several rounds of winter gloom and snowy torture. Although it was clear by the forecast (which is known for its accuracy) that this winter gust was not here to stay; it nevertheless left us yearning for the sun.
As we head into what looks like (for now anyhow) a week or so of sunshine and everyone seems already to be in high spirits; the question becomes, what is it about the sunshine that we are so drawn to?
According to Psychology Today, on sunny days we are in a better mood, we engage more with other people, tip better, and are more helpful to those around us (Dixit, 2009). The sunshine not only influences the stock market but also which types of candidates are admitted into college. Sunshine is often viewed as having a halo effect and providing us with an overall optimism, as stated by David Hirshleifer, a finance professor at the University of California at Irvine (Dixit, 2009).
So why does sunshine have such a powerful impact on the human psyche?
Although the sun in moderation provides us with many health benefits including building strong bones through vitamin D, fighting several cancers including ovarian and prostrate, as well as healing common skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis; it is best known for its ability to increase our serotonin levels (Nall, 2015). Serotonin is a chemical that when produced, improves mood and helps people feel calm and more focused. Sunlight stimulates areas of the retina in the eye which in turn triggers the brain to produce increased amounts of Serotonin. Conversely, a lack of Serotonin production can take place when the seasons change and the sun is no longer readily available. This lack of Serotonin production in the brain is thought to be associated with the ever common, especially in Michigan, Season Affective Disorder (Nall, 2015).
If the sunlight is as important to us as it appears, it is not surprising when we find ourselves in a halo of optimism at the first lasting glimpse for the season. Often times literature is heavily focused on the harm sun rays can cause prompting a fear of a natural and psychologically needed resource. So as we look at the sunny forecast ahead, bring on the cheerfulness, the calm focus, and the improvement in the stock market….bring on the sun!
Dixit, J (2009). Natural element: The long reach of sunshine. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200907/natural-element-the-long-reach-sunshine
Nall, R. (2015). What are the benefits of sunlight? Healthline. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight#Overview1