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Cold Weather Could be Impacting Your Mood

Susan Bence

We’ve been experiencing one of our coldest winters, in decades. Maybe you’ve added your voice to the chorus of complaints.

Milwaukee-area Clinical Psychologist Julie Helmrich says cold can impact a person's mood by messing with thyroid hormones. She says our body uses them to keep us warm while they are also related to mood. "So when we're really cold and all of those hormones are being used to keep us from being chilly, there's less left to work on the mood part of the brain." Helmrich says.

Helmrich says there is also a clear dynamic in human beings - we can tolerate anything as long as we know how long it's going to last. This winter, the cold and snow came early and we're now in the midst of our third Polar Vortex - an unusual occurrence and, a prolonged one. She says the cold has also been dangerous at times and "fear tends to paralyze people; they shut down," Helmrich says.

As for coping with our long, frigid winter - until it ends, someday, Helmrich recommends spending time outside (perhaps, as she does, by an outdoor fire pit at a coffee shop), just so we take control of the weather situation and don't give it, the upper hand.

She says, if the weather forecast makes you miserable - turn away from the predictions. Or, go someplace warm (she visits steam rooms) and give your chilly parts, a rest.

A bright side to this time of year: the days are getting longer. Helmrich says darkness can have even a more detrimental affect on people's moods, than cold temperatures.  

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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