Physical objects may appear to be solid. However, they actually contain tightly-packed groups of rapidly vibrating atoms, the basic units of matter.
What Are Ions?
An atom has three parts. It has a central nucleus made of one or more positively-charged protons and some number of neutrally-charged neutrons. One or more negatively-charged electrons are bound to the nucleus.
When the number of protons and electrons is the same, the atom is electrically neutral. An atom with more or fewer electrons than protons has a net negative or positive charge, respectively. We refer to such charged atoms as ions.
Every solid, liquid, gas, and plasma has neutral or ionized atoms. Put another way, an ion is an atom or group of atoms. It carries a positive or negative electric charge as a consequence of having lost or gained one or more electrons.
Air ions are produced from atmospheric and weather changes, by natural radioactivity, by combustion processes, by corona activity on the surface of high voltage conductors of transmission lines, and by commercially-available air ionizers like mine.
Natural forces create ions all the time as air molecules split apart due to sunlight, radiation, and moving air and water. Think sunny beaches, crashing ocean waves, and splashing waterfalls.
So, there are positive ions and there are negative ions. Psychologists who specialize in the human mind and our behavior have been studying the effects of air ions for more than 80 years, based on the reporting literature.
They Affect Our Moods
One review and meta-analysis of air ions and mood outcomes produced results showing that negative ionization was linked significantly with lower depression ratings, especially at the highest exposure level.
According to other researchers, certain weather conditions create air laced with positively-charged ions that, paradoxically, have a negative effect on our mental states and emotions.
In windy conditions with low humidity and moderate to high temperatures, positive ions become over-abundant. The energy generated by the wind separates a negatively-charged electron from neutrally-charged molecules such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen (among others), thereby transforming them into positive ions.
Historical documents describe “ill,” “evil,” or “devil” winds (full of positive ions) that drive people insane. These ill winds that blew no good were named:
“Italy suffers through the sirocco; in the Pacific Northwest, it’s the Chinook. The sharav afflicts Israelis, and Western Europeans persevere through the foehn. The American Southwest endures the Santa Ana; the ghibli rages across Libya; southern France has its mistral, and the Zonda roars through the Argentine Andes.”
Scientists aren’t sure why blustery winds make people feel bad but acknowledge that it’s a real condition.
A study from Israel cited in a New York Times article published on October 6, 1981, revealed that during the sharav, “thirty percent of the [Israeli] population becomes ill with migraine, nausea, vomiting, irritability, dimness of vision, respiratory symptoms and other [sharav-induced] effects.”
On the flip side, odorless, tasteless, and invisible negative ions that we inhale abundantly in certain conditions produce biochemical reactions that raise levels of the mood chemical serotonin after they enter the bloodstream. Negative ions can help lift depression, relieve stress, and boost energy during the day.
Michael Terman, Ph.D., of New York’s Columbia University, explained the positive effect of negative ions on us humans:
“The action of the pounding surf creates negative air ions, and we also see it immediately after spring thunderstorms when people report lightened moods.”
But is this woo-woo science?
Research Results Are All Over the Board
“Some experimental research indicates that exposure to negative air ions is linked to reduced depression severity, lower psychological stress, less anxiety, and enhanced well-being.”
“Others suggest that exposure to positive air ions may be associated with feelings of unpleasantness, irritability, and heightened anxiety; while some have found no mood alterations associated with air ionization.”
Nonetheless, Columbia University studies of people with winter and chronic depression linked negative ion generators to reducing depression as much as antidepressants – with relatively no side effects.
Negative ions may also increase the flow of oxygen to the brain. This results in greater alertness, less drowsiness, and more cognitive energy. They may offer protection against germs in the air, decreasing irritation from inhaling airborne particles that cause sneezing, coughing or an irritated throat.
People’s reactions to ionized air vary, too.
Some are more sensitive to atmospheric changes than others. It’s entirely possible that the beneficial effects of my negative air ionizer will merely cancel out the harmful positive ions produced by my computer and other electronic devices.