Here's Why You Get Testy When The Temperatures Rise

It's generally believed that summer makes people happier. In popular Western culture, winter, rain, and gray skies are associated with all things cold, dreary, and blue, while sunshine is often used as a symbol of positivity. Research shows that sunshine increases the production of vitamin D in our bodies, and affects melatonin and serotonin regulation, leading to improved sleep and mood, via HealthCentral. Plus, summer naturally makes it easier for people to engage in mood-boosting activities, like days at the beach or park, traveling, and socializing with loved ones. But when the temperature rises too much, it can have the opposite effect on our mood.


You're not alone if you've noticed that you're slightly or a lot more irritable when it's hot out. Extended or severe heat often makes people cranky, just as other weather changes can also affect a person's mood. And with climate change leading to steadily rising temperatures, it looks like drawn-out summer heatwaves may become the new standard, via Grid. Knowing how the weather affects you and how to cool off and calm down when the heat makes you testy has never been more relevant.

How does the heat affect your mood?

A research proposal dating back to the 1990s, aptly named Heat Hypothesis, suggests that being in warmer temperatures makes people more prone to losing their temper, via Science Focus. There have been other theories to explain why violent crime increases in the summer; with more people out socializing, conflict is only inevitable. However, multiple studies suggest that hot weather makes people lash out more quickly, and the reason is simple — heat is uncomfortable. Physical discomfort makes people more disposed to interpret things negatively and experience angry thoughts. Psych Central explains that studies are not conclusive and research has produced variable results, but connections have been established between high temperatures and human aggression. A study by the University of Lehigh determined that simply thinking about hot weather can make people tired and more irritable. 


These mild mood changes shouldn't be confused with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to seasonal changes, via Mayo Clinic. SAD typically starts and ends at the same time each year and is most common in winter, although it can also be triggered by summer. While heat can cause crankiness or tiredness, SAD symptoms are more severe. These can include struggling to concentrate, feeling sad most of the day, losing interest in activities you once loved, and feeling hopeless. If you don't have SAD and are just feeling irritable because of the heat, there are a few simple ways to manage your feelings.

How to manage your mood

Heat-related anger is likely to result from feeling hot and uncomfortable. So one of the most effective ways to improve your mood is to cool down. According to Vitacost, you can keep cool in the summer with cold showers and baths, limiting your activity to early in the morning or late at night, staying hydrated with enough water, and keeping the oven off. Accessories like a misting fan or a refrigerated spray bottle can also help take the edge off the heat while working. If you get angry in the hot weather, you must stop and think before you say or do anything, via Vanderbilt University. Take the time to calm down before you speak to avoid words you'll regret. It can also be beneficial to take deep breaths and know your triggers. For example, if traffic fires you up, it might be best to avoid driving during peak-hour times in the heat.


If you think you have SAD, seek help from a healthcare provider who can give you practical techniques or medications to deal with the disorder, via WebMD. It's also important to get plenty of sleep, maintain regular physical activity, and be kind to yourself if you have summer depression. Awareness of your feelings rather than suppressing them is always the first step in dealing with any heat-related mood changes.