Does Sunshine Really Equal Happiness?

Let’s look at if sunshine can lead to increased perceived life satisfaction. This is an interesting topic to look at if sunshine indeed has the power to alter moods and by extension, our outlook on life. Often, when it is cold outside it is more uncomfortable than when it is warm and sunny. Could comfort actually be the thing that increases happiness? These situational factors could indeed impact how we view our lives and those around us. As Jacobsen et al., noted, typical mood fluctuations are observed during the course of the year: In the cold and dark winter months, depression is more prevalent, while in spring and summer depressive states decline. Various aspects of the weather, such as temperature, cloudiness and air pressure, but especially the amount of sunshine, are linked to these seasonal fluctuations in people’s moods (1987). As seasons are always changing, so are our emotions. It is important to recognize patterns in seasons that may coincide with your mood and relative life satisfaction. 

I know that as soon as there is a warm sunny day in Edmonton, I feel happy almost without an obvious reason. This judgement of my personal happiness based on sunlight seems like a possible explanation although it is not true 100% of the time. Perception can be a powerful tool in measuring happiness. Often, for me, sunshine means I am on a vacation where I am already happy to be there. Weather is a situational factor that can lead to real changes in perceived life satisfaction. It was reasoned that “sunshine can activate positive emotions and moods in many people due to a sunlight-induced increase of serotonin in the human brain” (Kämpfer & Mutz, 2013). This could be an important factor to take into account if you are looking to move somewhere with low average yearly days of sunlight. It has been noted that interviews about life satisfaction conducted on sunny days reported a 10% increase in reported happiness then on days where it was cloudy. Even a small increase in happiness could make a large difference to people. 

What does this mean for you? For me, it means that I will go out and enjoy being in the sunshine when there is nice weather and not take it for granted. Maybe you are not as impacted by weather and this has no bearing on your life, or maybe you have never thought about the impact weather can have on your feelings. As summer continues, go outside and enjoy the sunshine. Maybe it will give you a boost of happiness and you can pass it on to others in your life.

Written by: Emma McLachlin


Kämpfer, S., & Mutz, M. (2013). On the Sunny Side of Life: Sunshine Effects on Life Satisfaction. Social Indicators Research, 110(2), 579–595.

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