In small-town Southern Oregon, where I’ve been living for the past three years — a far cry from the metropolitan city of Toronto, where I spent the previous 20 years — the summers are very hot, sunny and dry, while the winters bring long spells of grey skies and drizzly rain.
People always think it rains all the time here, but that’s the northern part of Oregon. A combination of mountain ranges and Pacific coastlines give the State several very distinct climate regions.
Nonetheless, between November and March it certainly feels like it rains all the time, or at least stays pretty darned dark. Luckily, the past few days have brought some bright, sunny days, and that’s been brightening my mood, too.
Hey, I always wondered why people — especially weather forecasters — always had to equate certain weather with being “miserable” or “dreary”. I thought it was pretty much giving our power away to let something as random as the weather affect our moods.
But lately I’ve been thinking more and more about the scientific validity of that. After a bit of digging, I got confirmation of the fact that light (and, by extension, weather) does indeed impact the way we feel. It’s laid out pretty point blank in a little informational e-book I came across on the University of California, San Diego Medical Center’s website, called Brighten Your Life By Daniel F. Kripke, M.D.
“Think about the dark dungeons of despair, the heart of darkness, the gloominess of a funereal mood. This language tells us what people have always known. Sadness rules where it is dark,” writes Dr. Kripke. He goes on to say, “Think about a person who has Seen the Light. Think about brilliance. Think how we describe the scintillating joy of love by singing, “You are My Sunshine.”We know that light makes us happier.”
These days, we spend more and more time indoors, and Dr. Kripke blames modern urbanization. He points out that when he was a little boy, they played outside often, and walked to school even in the winter. (He didn’t say, “Uphill both ways,” but we’ve all heard those stories from our grandparents.)
I’m not sure how old Kripke is, but even when I was a kid we spent more time outdoors than children today seem to; after all, we didn’t have all the video games and electronic toys that they do now, and there were only a few channels on TV.
But we don’t need to blame technology. In fact, technology provides an answer in Kripke’s Brighten Your Life: bright light, which is used to treat depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Help with finding the right room-brightening and mood-brightening appliances can be found through the non-profit Society of Light Treatment & Biological Rhythms.
So if not technology, what should we blame? Laziness, perhaps, or complacency… or simply routine habits. But it’s really a catch 22. We don’t feel like going outside, but we feel worse by staying in. I know that I find my head clears and my energy rises when I go outside, even if it is raining. So certainly our kids can benefit from fresh air too… not to mention the Vitamin D we get from the sun.
That’s why I’m making it a personal goal this year to spend more time outside, and to take my family with me, regardless of how much my husband and I feel we need to be tied to our computers, working. After all, if you’re going to light up your life, you might as well do it the natural way. Indoor lights might be good, but the biggest light of all — the sun — is even better.
And we might even go one step further. While we’re enjoying our time outdoors, you just may hear us singing, “Here Comes the Sun…” or, yes, even “You Are My Sunshine.” After all, music is another mood-lifter, just like light.
Photo Title: My Thoughts Are Scattered and They’re Cloudy © Robert S. Donovan
Photo Title: Playing Outside © Ambrose Little