Health Watch By Steve Mullenix

The North Jefferson News

Ask a child to draw a picture one rainy day and have him or her to do the same on a sunny day. Then, observe the differences.

The one with the rain drops falling from the top of the page will most likely have the stick figure behind a window with a frown. The other most likely will have a big yellow ball in the upper corner with the stick figure being outside, and most likely sporting a big smile. I bet even the dog — if they draw one — may be smiling as well.

We as humans are inherently sympathetic to our environment. Even in our music we associate mood with the weather. The lyrics of the B.J. Thomas song, “Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head,” include lines about having trouble getting out of bed, sleeping on the job, the blues and crying.

The Carpenters in their song, “Rainy Days and Mondays,” sing about how nothing seems to fit, not belonging and nothing to do but frown.

Research has shown that low levels of humidity, temperature and hours of sunshine have a great effect on mood. Higher levels of humidity result in lower scores on concentration and increasing reports of sleepiness.

Rising temperatures lower anxiety and raise mood scores. As the hours of sunshine increase, so do the scores that measure an individual’s optimism.

It seems that mood is not the only thing that is affected by the weather. Who has not heard someone say, “It’s going to rain; I feel it in my bones.” Well it seems that there is some scientific evidence to back this claim. Several studies have indicated that barometric pressure and cooler temperatures play a role.

The largest study supporting this theory was presented at the American College of Rheumatology conference in October 2004. The conclusion: “Changes in barometric pressure have a strong association with increase in keen pain. Cooler temperatures were also consistently, although weakly associated with increased pain”.

Why does a change in barometric pressure and temperature cause joint aches? One theory is that the pressure change before a storm causes the tissue and fluid around the joints to expand and swell. This puts extra pressure on the joint and bone, causing the ache.

As for the cold weather effect, the muscles around the joints may contract or tighten, causing stiffness that result in an increase in pain. Everyone is different, but if grandma tells you it’s going to rain, it might be a good idea to take an umbrella.

So since you can’t control the weather, how do you get around the emotion impact it can have on your mood?

Since some people’s emotions are simply more vulnerable to weather changes than others, learn to anticipate the effect. Remember you are not emotionally powerless against the weather — you can be proactive and take steps against weather-driven mood changes.

Do things that make you feel good, like listening up uplifting music or reading a good novel. Look at pictures of a vacation, or take a weekend trip to a warmer location.

All of the tried and proven methods of stress management can help as well. These include regular exercise, walking, moderating alcohol intake and meditating.

For weather to improve mood, individuals need to spend at least 30 minutes outside on a warm sunny day. Research has proven that spending time indoors when the weather outside was pleasant actually decreases mood, not unlike a dull rainy day does.

You’re not crazy if you think your mood is affected by weather. Nearly 40 years of research suggest there is a strong link.

While you may not be able to will the sun to come out, you can empower yourself to break through the emotional cloud hanging over your head and increase your mood on a bleak day..

Steve Mullenix (R.Ph) co-owns The Pharmacy in Mount Olive with his wife, Sherry Mullenix (J.D., R.N.). They can be reached at 631-1201.

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