How Moods Are Affected By The SunJared Sousa1/20/96Descriptive ResearchThesis: The amount of sun people receive affects their mood.A young woman lies asleep on a cold, overcast winter morning. At 4 A.M., afaint incandescence radiates from a light bulb placed near her bed. The lightgradually gains intensity and covers until 6 A.M.
, when the woman awakes. Shehad just experienced a simulated dawn of a new day. After being treated withthis for several days, the woman’s annual winter depression slowly goes away.Does this mean that the less sun you get the worse you feel, or perhaps themore you get the better your mood? It is very possible that you may feel thisway as millions of people worldwide have experienced it first-hand. Thisphenomena is still sort of a mystery as many researchers don’t completelyunderstand why this happens. “It may be that certain individuals have inheritedvulnerability that causes them to develop depression in the absence of exposureto sufficient environmental light”1. Frederick A. Cook, the arctic explorer,provided a vivid description of the effects of prolonged darkness on the humanpsyche: “The curtain of blackness which has overfallen the outer world has alsodescended upon the inner world of our souls,” Cook wrote in his journal on May16, 1898, “Around our tables .
. . . men are sitting about sad and dejectedlost in dreams of melancholy. For brief moments some try to break the spell byjokes, told perhaps for the 50th time. Others grind out a cheerful philosophy;but all efforts to infuse bright hopes fail.
“2 Some believe that light affectsthe body’s ability to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps inducefeelings of calm and well being. The eye’s sensitivity may also play a part insun/mood relations. A study was done to a group of people in the winter andsummer.
In the winter the many individuals experienced much more difficultyseeing dim light after sitting in the dark for a while.3 Another study done inVancouver shows that electrical activity in the retinas when a bright light isshone, is significantly less in winter4.As much as 5% of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective disorder, also knownas SAD5. SAD is an illness in which the sufferers feel depressed, feellethargic, and they overeat .
There is no known cause for this widespreadillness. Many researchers of SAD are speculating on the idea that SAD patientsmight have seasonal variations in their melatonin secretions. A study ofmelatonin patterns in SAD sufferers was done to determine if melatonin was afactor in the disorder.
Since mostly women are affected by SAD, researchersused healthy women as the control. The researchers who found that thesignificant difference in winter and summer pacemaking that occurred in SADpatients also saw similar patterns in the healthy women. Other studies showthat a SAD sufferer’s eye usually does not take in as much sunlight in thewinter as a normal person, which may exaggerate the depression and othersymptoms.
6 Most SAD patients treated with light therapy for a few weeks usuallylose the depression. SAD patients that tended to eat more than one portion ofsweet things (such as chocolate, cake, or ice cream) per day usually foundtemporary relief from their illness.7 Swiss scientists believe that the sweetfoods seems to “trigger” the release of the same mood-altering substances thatlight triggers.Nevertheless, light — or lack thereof — can really get under our skin. Forinstance, “Rapid changes in the day length greatly modify the daily cycle ofsleep and melatonin secretion,” report researchers led by psychiatrist Thomas A.Wehr of the National Institute of Mental Health, “. .
. brain mechanisms thatdetect and respond to seasonal changes in day length may have been conserved inthe course of human evolution.”8 The findings with the sun’s affect on humansmatched those already observed in rats.
Many of us have not yet realized whatan important factor light is in our daily life. “Light is a complex stimulusthat has been inadequately specified, given the intense clinical experimentationof the last five years.”9Research with these results easily prove that thesun and light really do alter our mood, and have a great influence on our lives.