What Your Mental Health Has In Common With Superman’s Powers
If you’re a fan of comic books, or even just seen some recent DC comic movies, you may be familiar with how Superman gets his powers.
The radiation from our yellow sun affects his “alien” genetics in a way that gives him superhuman strength, speed, and the ability to fly. While we all dream of having super powers, you may actually have more in common with the Man of Steel than you realize. At least in some small way.
A recent study took a statistical look among data from both the weather and several sets of data. And what the research found was that your mental health functions a lot like superman’s powers. That is, the more sunlight we seem to get, the better our mental health.
Sunlight Boosts Mental Health
The concept of weather affecting our moods and behavior isn’t a new concept. But some studies have come away with mixed results on the matter.
However, three scientists from different fields brought together their expertise and data to see if there was any noticeable effects from different types of weather.
Their findings, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, show that the days with the most amount of sunlight, even if it was mixed with some clouds or stormy conditions, had a noticeable affect on our well-being. Specifically, they say from their study that:
…seasonal increases in sun time were associated with decreased mental health distress.
Mark Beecher, who was involved in the study, commented on a number of other factors that they studied:
On a rainy day, or a more polluted day, people assume that they’d have more distress. But we didn’t see that. We looked at solar irradiance, or the amount of sunlight that actually hits the ground.
We tried to take into account cloudy days, rainy days, pollution . . . but they washed out. The one thing that was really significant was the amount of time between sunrise and sunset.
Better Than The Rest
Other research involving weather and behavior has had spotty results. One of the big reasons why comes down to the quality of the data.
For this study, though, there was a physics professor had access to detailed weather information. On the other side was a psychologist which had clinical data he could use. Beecher commented on the unique situation:
We realized that we had access to a nice set of data that not a lot of people have access to.
And to analyze the data, they pulled in a third professor that was an expert in statistics.
Beecher believes that their study is superior to other research because of the number of variables they accounted for, the detailed information from weather stations, and the fact that they focused on a clinical population.
Their findings aren’t specific to people who might be suffering from conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The amount of sunlight and it’s association with our mental health affects everyone in the general population.
However, their study doesn’t look for the underlying cause. Other guesses from experts include light’s role in the production of hormones – like melatonin. Some suggest it’s lower levels of vitamin D.
Whatever the cause may be, it does give us another good reason to get outside. So take that walk to boost your mood. It might just help you feel like Superman. Or Superwoman.