Sunshine on his shoulders made singer John Denver happy. But CU researchers needed a $500,000 federal grant from the National Science Foundation to finally prove the "John Denver Hypothesis," according to this report in today's Boulder Daily Camera. One major scientific question has been answered. Who said all the big breakthroughs in science have been made?
"CU scientist Christopher Lowry, an assistant professor of integrative physiology, received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue studying the link between temperature and mood. The grant is paid for with a Faculty Early Career Development Award.
"Whether lying on the beach in the midday sun on a Caribbean island, grabbing a few minutes in the sauna or spa after working or sitting in a hot bath or Jacuzzi in the evening, we often associate feeling warm with a sense of relaxation and well-being," Lowry wrote in a recent edition of the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Lowry said that people intuitively understand that temperature affects mood, but he is looking to clearly define that link. Understanding these mechanisms might help scientists develop better treatments for depression and other mood disorders, according to Lowry."
Many of us knew, anecdotally, that we tend to feel better on sunny days than on cloudy days. We know from observations that Minnesotans and Michiganders tend to spend their winter breaks in Florida, rather than the other way around. But so what? Science cannot stand on anecdotes and casual observations alone.
Testing the "John Denver Hypothesis" has been a National Science Foundation priority for years. Now, finally, thanks to perseverance and an unconscionable misuse of resources, the case has been cracked: Sunshine on our shoulders does, in fact, make us happy. This wasn't just some pop song-inspired myth.
Now federal dollars can be spent solving the next great scientific question: Do albino alligators really live in the sewers under New York City? The National Science Foundation is standing by now, to take your grant proposals.