Blue skies can help expats from feeling too blue

Gray days like Sunday may have more impact on mental state than most expats believe.

There is not a lot of research from tropical sources on the effect of weather on the brain, even though the rainy season and gloomy days are part of life here.

But elsewhere researchers have linked something called seasonal affective disorder to 7 percent or more of the population.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said Sunday that this week will see weather than represents the transition into the rainy season. Hot mornings will give way to gathering clouds and downpours in the afternoon.  Today the heaviest rain will be in the central and south Pacific, the institute said. That is because the rainy season is moving from south to north.

Costa Ricans know that this is the time to get up early and enjoy the morning sun. They may not realize it, but they are self-medicating.

The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association in the United Kingdom estimates that about 7 percent of the population suffers from winter depression from September to April there. Theassociation claims 900 members.

Most of the research has been done in areas where there is winter weather. The condition used to be known as cabin fever.

The symptoms include sleep disturbances, a tendency to overeat, lethargy and depression, said the association.

Researchers at Columbia University in New York said that short days, winter skies and shadows of sunlight not only make humans blue, limiting the amount of sunlight in their life may also affect how their brains work, they said. Investigators used weather data from satellites to measure sunlight exposure around the United States and linked this data to cognitive function in depressed people.
Cognitive function of the brain describes how a person thinks and was assessed by measurement of short-term recall and how aware one was of where they were and what time it was, called temporal orientation.

Light has been shown to regulate the hormones serotonin and melatonin as well as affect brain blood flow. Brain blood flow is in turn linked to how well a person thinks, they noted.

Some expats, of course, have a tendency to magnify the situation by making the gray late afternoons a time for alcoholic excess.

The government is aware of the effects of sunlight, too. In part, that’s why the official workday is from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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