Sunday 21 January 2018

With winter gone, I'm no longer under a cloud

John Masterson is an outdoors person. Photo: Deposit
John Masterson is an outdoors person. Photo: Deposit

John Masterson

How I feel when I wake up is a good indicator of my mood for the rest of the day. Recently, I have been waking up after dawn, and that alone is almost enough to put a spring in my step. The long drag of short dark days is coming to an end. The bushes are budding and the daffodils are doing their thing. This recent burst of weather has been really enjoyable - I have had a sunny disposition because now I can see daylight at the end of the tunnel.

There is a lots of research on how, and whether, weather affects our mental health. A long hot summer can be bad for some people and it is not hard to understand why tempers are short. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a recognised disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual that psychologists use. I am far from the only one affected by the weather, it seems.

There has been growing awareness of suicide in recent years. Far too many families are touched by it. There is a seasonality about taking one's life. Suicide peaks in the spring and early summer and no one really knows why. This pattern holds for both Northern and Southern hemispheres, peaking in November down under.

A study of Dutch students (too many psychological findings are based on convenient students) found that almost half claimed to be unaffected by weather. Of those who said it did affect them, 9pc hated the rain, 27pc hated the summer and 17pc loved the summer. I know of one person who so hated the Irish rain that when he was building a house extension, he incorporated a drive-in garage so that he would never again have to get wet during the 10 seconds from car to front door. This may seem extreme and expensive but I know he considers it his best ever investment and he has the mood improvement to show for it.

If I was given the questionnaire the Dutch students filled out, I would be one of the half that are affected by weather. I am most definitely a rain-hater and a summer-lover, and preferably a summer-lover in a country that gets less rain that we do.

Over the last few days as I have woken up full of happiness I have realised the role that weather plays in my mood. I am an outdoors person. I love having the doors and windows open and will happily only enter the house to sleep. Recent days have made this possible. I go to bed happy having sat (admittedly wearing fleece and hat) with a book, or a drink or friends, watching the sun go down over the hills. In winter I need to move to a high-rise glass building that is warm inside and has a view, like the one in the Angelus film. I need to be outside, or be able to think that I am, to remain light-hearted.

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