By Anne Dean, Director of Editorial Services, Living Abroad, LLC
“Tis the hard grey weather breeds hard English men” Charles Kingsley (1819-75), British writer and cleric
Somewhere in the world right now weather is affecting someone’s life. Would you like to live in a place that had consistently extreme weather all the time? And if you do live in a place like that now, how do you stay motivated? Does the weather affect your mood? Can sustained weather patterns, good or bad, affect your family life? Is the success of your assignment in jeopardy because of the weather? There are enough factors that go into a successful or unsuccessful assignment, but is weather on the top of your list of concerns? Shouldn’t it be?
As of this writing, it’s , the sky here in Connecticut (U.S.) is grey, it must have rained overnight and I’m already on my second cup of coffee. I much prefer working when the sun is shining. My college-aged son, however, loves cloudy days – says he can be more focused than on bright, sunny days which he finds distracting!
On a recent news forecast, after the announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement, a Member of Parliament was interviewed about the royal couple living on the Island of Anglesey in Wales. The U.S. reporter said, “Yes, it is beautiful here, but do you ever get used to the weather?” Anyone that lives there would probably say that the rainy weather is directly responsible for the lush and beautiful countryside!
Moving on, what do Ulaan-Baatar (Mongolia), Lima (Peru), Madrid (Spain), Athens (Greece) and Ottawa (Canada) have in common? Each one holds, or claims to hold, the title of coldest, driest, sunniest or snowiest city in the world! And, contrary to popular belief, rainforests do not have the most rainfall in a year – the Amazon averages only about 108 inches, whereas parts of Hawaii and India average over 400 inches!
It was interesting to find that research done by a large expat health insurer showed that a third of English expats say they felt healthier since moving abroad, thanks to better weather and an improved quality of life. That being said, going to a warm place in the middle of winter can be a huge mood enhancer. Enjoyable weather has been proven to brighten moods, improve memory, and broaden our cognitive thinking skills. On the other end of the spectrum, extremely hot weather can actually make you feel tired and sluggish, worsening your entire mood. Being outside on a beautiful spring day after being inside most of the winter offers an outlet to recharge your mind.
Recent studies have shown that participants who spent time outdoors in moderate weather were happier than those who spent all day inside. There were also better memory scores when they conducted tests comparing the two groups. Research has also proven that sunlight boosts serotonin levels in your body by providing it with vitamin D. People do sometimes feel a little blue in the winter and better in the spring, but that should be no big surprise. Some people even suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the winter, which is a disorder occurring from lack of sunlight and warmth.
Melatonin is instrumental in controlling sleep/wake cycles. Light has a big impact on melatonin production; so, in the winter you produce melatonin either later or earlier in the day than you would during the summer months. This change in melatonin production is what leads to SAD. The older a person gets, the less melatonin the body produces. Sometimes the elderly do not produce any at all, which makes the elderly more susceptible to depression.
Your internal clock, also known as circadian rhythm, has a 24-hour cycle that regulates your body’s sleep cycle and other physical and mental types of behavior. Research finds that shorter days and reduced sunlight might easily disrupt your circadian rhythm, which would lead to irritability and depression.
The best temperature for people is about 72 degrees because it is the most temperate. Could that explain why people in southern California, for example, San Diego, seem so happy all the time? There was also research done that found a connection between hot weather and violent behavior. Perhaps having a cool drink would help that.
A person should spend at least 30 minutes outside in warm, sunny weather to improve their mood. Spending time indoors when the weather is nice tends to decrease mood and diminish critical thinking patterns. It is most likely because we resent being cooped-up inside when spring finally arrives and we get which is known as spring fever. It can also make inside activities seem boring or annoying causing less productivity.
It remains debatable whether the weather affects emotions and mood. Some people, scientists and other authorities claim that weather conditionsabsolutely impact the way we feel, while others claim it is nonsense. Hans Christian Andersen noted in his writing that the warm Swiss "foehn" wind results in strange human behavior (same as during a full moon), including an increase in nausea, domestic violence, and depression. It could be superstition, but there also may be some merit to it.
In my research for this article, I found that the cold weather is, without a doubt, the most discussed thread in expats' websites!