Heat makes you cranky. It’s true

Rising temperatures make you angrier and more irritable, a study finds. Docs say you can keep calm by being aware

Summer Temper

Even with surprise showers providing a welcome breather from the heat, the summer is proving too hot to handle for Bengalureans.

Rising temperatures, apart from aggravating health problems and causing a rise in water and electricity bills, also have the effect of making you angrier and more irritable.

Studies have shown that as the climate heats up, so do our tempers; this leads to an uptick in physical aggression and violence.

Analysing 60 quantitative studies across fields like archaeology, criminology, economics, and history, researchers at the University of California found that higher temperatures, scanty rainfall and drought were consistently linked to increased violence.

The findings, which held true across the globe and over the years, says violence was observed both between individuals and groups during such situations.

“The general body-state influences the psychological state. For example, winters or low-level temperatures are known to increase depression. Likewise, summer increases irritability; sweating, dehydration and dry weather can influence people to flare up,” explains Dr Pavana Rao, clinical psychologist, Apollo Clinic, JP Nagar. Clinical psychologist Akanksha Pandey, with Fortis Hospital, agrees the weather is an environmental characteristic that can influence emotions, cognition and human behaviour.

“People experience increased positive emotions and broadened cognition during warm spring weather. The general aggression model explains human behaviour as a consequence of the various combinations of environmental factors, situational factors and personal tendencies such as poor distress tolerance and self-control,” she says.

The science behind it

The phenomenon puzzled experts for many years though people who have experienced blistering summers do agree the heat makes people cranky. However, a study in Poland explained the scientific basis for this — cortisol, the stress hormone, is lower in winter, and the heat makes it go up.

The human body is adapted to a core body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is the right temperature as all enzymes that control the working of the body function optimally at this warmth. An increase of even one degree Celsius makes it different for the body to function.

An increase in body temperature causes your heart rate to go up and your blood pressure to rise — and that’s the cooling mechanism of your body at work.

The ambient temperature also affects your brain because of a lack of oxygen in the regions of the brain that control your impulses, and as the body directs more blood to the skin’s surface in an effort to cool off. So emotions rise and calm-headed thinking declines.

How can you keep your cool?

Dr Pavana Rao says awareness plays a big role in anger management.

Individuals should recognise when they get angry and also predict when they are likely to get angry.

“For example, people tend to be tired in summer. They need to know they may overreact to certain situations. This awareness helps them be prepared to tackle outbursts so the reactions are not severe,” she explains. We have all often been advised to count backwards, take deep breaths or drink water when angry, but Pavana says such steps help only in the initial stages, and may not work when the anger has crossed the threshold.

“The key is to be aware of the emotional state at every point of time and learn to identify the starting signs of anger,” she says.

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Heat makes you cranky. It’s true

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