As we’ve been facing a few days of hot, and sometimes record-breaking temperatures, I’ve been thinking about how the heat affects my mood.
Most people are probably familiar with the way that heat makes us feel more irritable. It’s more difficult for most people to sleep when they are hot, and the heat can sap our motivation to go about our daily tasks or face challenges that come up in our lives.
As the weather gets hot, I suggest stopping for a few minutes to pay attention to the way the temperatures are affecting your mood. Does it make you feel more irritable or less motivated? Has it affected your sleep? Maybe some people feel energized, or more relaxed with the heat of the sun on their faces. Whatever it is, pay attention to it, and maybe name it out loud. When you pay attention to what you’re feeling, you have more information to make choices about your behavior. If you know you’re already irritable, you can catch yourself before saying something harsh to a partner, family member, or store employee. If you know that you feel irritable from the heat, it may also give you more empathy when someone else acts more cranky than usual. You can ask if the weather is making them feel more cranky, too. Paying attention to how the external environment affects your mood is an important way to practice the tool of self-awareness and help you to make better choices to be the kind of person you want to be.
In our work, we always recommend appropriate physical activity to help improve mood and address some other mental health concerns. But when it gets hot, especially with summer winding down, motivation can dwindle, too. It can be more difficult to reach our fitness goals if it means going outside when it’s hot. Think of a few short-term changes in habit – get up earlier to exercise in the cooler morning, find a few Youtube videos to do your workouts at home, or go swimming to get your heart rate up.
Finally, you’ve heard that refrain everywhere – drink more water! When it’s hot, it’s easier to get dehydrated and further overheated. Drinking plenty of water helps our bodies cool off naturally – and staying hydrated can also impact our mood in a positive way.
So we hope you’re staying cool, finding ways to stay motivated, and treating yourself and others kindly.