I realize that a Central Texas winter is by no means the toughest of seasons (originating from the Great White North and all), however, while spring may be around the corner, I believe I may be feeling a bit SAD. Seasonal Affect Disorder is a diagnosis for the way people can feel during (usually) winter periods. Shorter days, more darkness, the possibility of reduced mobility through storms and snow have been known to affect individuals in negative ways – hopelessness, loss of energy, heavy feeling, oversleeping, difficulty concentrating, weight gain and a weakened immune system during the colder months. While I haven’t experienced all these symptoms, this is something I don’t think I’ve experienced in tropical climates (but there are other issues with that).
So my mind turns to the emotional, mental and physical afflictions that are affected by both our outer world as well as our inner world.
Clouds and Cues
There’s a song that choruses “it’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day…” It’s a happy song about seeing more clearly – because of the weather or because of a mental shift from within. I’m not going to dissect this tune, but bring it up as an example of the connections we make with ourselves, our moods and weather. There are many weather-based words that seem to be used when describing people – that we associate climate patterns with individuals, their outlooks or approaches to life.
The subconscious, our deep storehouse of all our experiences, is the master of association. It makes connections where, logically (the conscious mind’s domain), there shouldn’t be any. For example, the advantages to rain is actually sustained life – plants grow, rivers run, we can drink water that is necessary for our continued existence. Yet how many people’s moods drop when the clouds gather and the droplets fall? It’s not that way everywhere – I’ve seen tribes who will gather outside, singing and dancing in the rain that breaks a deadly drought. With internal plumbing and urban schedules that might be thwarted (ones that have nothing to do with agriculture, mind you), rain is a negative. Maybe we heard it from others, maybe it stopped us from having a fun day out with the family when we were young – the mind stores it all and links positive, negative or neutral thoughts together to get a tally. So when we are cued by a shift in the weather, the total sum of our past experiences, beliefs and feelings congregate to judge how we feel about what’s going on outside.
For every season… there is a reason…
Just as I mentioned some very valid reasons for rain, so too are there many good reasons for seasons. Just as we have similar periods in different areas of our lives, spring is a time for sprouting (new ideas in business, learning something new), summer is a time for greater growth and some return (as well as weeding!), autumn is a time for harvesting (gathering the fruits of our labour), and winter is a time for pause, for retirement, for waiting for rebirth. I need to remember this whenever I negatively turn on a season – that I might be ignoring an important message in my life. I realize that I have a tendency to ‘do’ rather than ‘not do’ and in a flurry of activity I sometimes lose my grounding or perspective that I could have gained from stopping for a while and regrouping – taking my winter in stride.
I might have mentioned ‘my tree’ in Singapore that gave me an indicator or different parts of the year – leaves, flowers, seeds, bare – and it was a respite to someone who had grown up in seasons. To me, it gave some regularity, some delineation to a never-ending single season. Something started and ended and it felt as though there was some progression and cycle. Within a constant ‘summer’ of work and life, it reminded me that sometimes leaves falling and allowing the tree a time to rest isn’t bad at all.
No bad weather… just inappropriate clothing…
I believe that ‘bad’ weather is completely personal. I was walking in London, England, on what I considered a pleasant summer day when all I could hear from the sales people in stores is that it was too hot! I know that my parents don’t have air conditioning in their home – and in summer, for some, it might get a fair sight warmer than is comfortable for both (yet at the same time the house is toasty warm during the winter months). After having frostbitten parts of my extremities (fingers, toes, nose, ears) from exposure in winters gone by, I can tell exactly when I have been in a sauna for 7.5 minutes – I can feel the tip of my nose – which might be a party trick but also makes me more sensitized to cold weather.
Human beings adapt, which is a great strength of ours, so after 15 years in the tropics, it would make sense that my blood had ‘thinned’ as well. We can get used to our environment, over time and with some support, yet another very human trait is that we have preferences. I prefer warm weather over cold. I have family members who think the opposite. Maybe it’s a matter of accepting that it is our preferences rather than our ability to adapt that sets our current tone about weather. And that this can change when we need it to.
Whatever the Weather
There’s a quote I once heard that generally suggested “take a cue from the weather, it doesn’t take criticism personally…” I like it. I know that sometimes when I am working with athletes, they complain about having to perform under challenging weather conditions. I often remind them that others are doing exactly the same, so we can see it as a leveling agent, or we can take advantage of our ability to mentally surmount whatever conditions we find ourselves in to perform at peak ‘in spite of it’.
One thing that I’ve noticed is that people who are settled within, who have found a certain contentment within their own mind and being, tend to be relatively unaffected by their surroundings. Not that they are oblivious to them (much to the contrary) but that their inner weather vane is stronger than whatever storms are going on outside of themselves. That they can hold a ‘cool breeze’ or a ‘sunshiny day’ within no matter what external pressures or temperatures exist. Which means that the answer to every question about the weather today is “just right”.