Solar Flares and Happiness

It isn’t only the moon that affects human emotions and behaviour; the sun does, too.

There is evidence that restaurant diners tip better on sunny days and that the American stock market performs better on sunny days. On the other hand, reports The Conversation, one Australian study found that shoppers exiting stores correctly recalled seven times as many random objects placed near the checkout area on cloudy days as on sunny days.

Let’s face it, mood could affect all of these situations and many more — for better or worse. According to Communities Digital News, from 1948 to 1997, the Institute of North Industrial Ecology Problems in Russia studied the effects of the three annual peaks in solar flare activity during those years. Each peak mapped to an increase in human anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and suicide in the city of Kirovsk.

Researchers speculated that the solar storms changed the circadian rhythms that in turn impacted the endocrine system. “The pineal gland in our brain is affected by the electromagnetic activity,” they said. This causes the gland to produce excess melatonin, and melatonin is the brain’s built in ‘downer’ that helps us sleep.”

“It all comes down to a complex relationship among sunlight, melatonin and serotonin that we’re only just starting to understand,” reports the website Science: How Stuff Works. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is tied to states of wakefulness, being in a “good mood,” and happiness. Plenty of time in the sun helps with this, and sunscreen does not interfere with the process.

Vitamin D, which we make when the sun hits our skin (but only when there is no intervening sunscreen), helps keep serotonin levels high. All it takes is 10 to 20 minutes or so of sun exposure several times a week.

Plus, “too much exposure to limited- spectrum indoor lighting, and the related under exposure to full-spectrum light, has been connected with problems like fatigue, reduced immune function and possibly fertility issues,” according to Science.

So pull up those blinds! Throw open the curtains and get some sun!