Does rain make you SAD?

Sea­sonal Af­fec­tive Dis­or­der is a real thing, dis­cov­ers a soggy colum­nist.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Opinion -

IT’S been rain­ing in Hong Kong for a week. And let me re­it­er­ate, Hong Kong is where I live cur­rently, so I’ve been wak­ing up to dreary grey days, punc­tu­ated by sud­den down­pours that last min­utes or hours but that usu­ally oc­cur while I’m out walk­ing the dog.

When it rains in Hong Kong, it’s not like the rain in other cities. When you ex­ist un­der a canopy of grey con­crete, ev­ery­thing drips, the grit and grime on the street turn into a grey sludge that gets on your shoes and makes spat­ter marks on the back of your pants.

In short, it’s not fun. Wak­ing up to find your­self in a per­pet­ual rain storm day af­ter day has to af­fect your mood, and I say this be­cause star­ing out the win­dow at the smidgen of sky I can see through a lit­tle gap among the grey build­ings and re­al­is­ing that it too was grey made me want to cry.

Or maybe it was al­ler­gies.

In any case, it’s no se­cret that weather af­fects our moods. In fact, weather can make you down­right SAD. SAD, of course, being an acro­nym for Sea­sonal Af­fec­tive Dis­or­der. It usu­ally oc­curs in win­ter months when there is less sun. The sci­en­tific rea­son­ing being that with less sun our bod­ies pumps out more mela­tonin, which makes us sleepy. This ex­plains that rainy day malaise of want­ing to sit on the couch and de­stroy a bag of fried snacks and then pass out from glut­tony. But be­cause of this in­creased de­sire to do noth­ing, our bod­ies cre­ate less sero­tonin, which in turn af­fects our mood – so SAD makes peo­ple feel sad.

Pause for the slow soli­tary clap­ping of one pair of hands.

Cold weather is said to make peo­ple lethar­gic and rainy weather can make peo­ple eat, so mix the two to­gether and you have the per­fect mix for obe­sity.

But weather ef­fects on emo­tion is no joke. Sui­cides have been linked to cer­tain sea­sons. Now, you would ex­pect that sea­son to be win­ter – es­pe­cially if you’d ever ex­pe­ri­enced the cold, stark­ness of an On­tario win­ter in Canada – but sui­cides ac­tu­ally peak in spring and sum­mer and de­crease in au­tumn and win­ter. A study done in 2012 con­cluded that this was true of both north­ern and south­ern hemi­sphere lo­ca­tions, mak­ing this fact in­de­pen­dent of cul­ture.

No real rea­son was given in the study, though a friend from Ice­land – where they en­dure months of dark­ness in win­ter – may have hit on why: He told me that no one com­mits sui­cide in the win­ter. Ev­ery­one is de­pressed when it’s dark non­stop. Ev­ery­one. So it’s sad but it’s a com­mu­nal ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s when the sun comes back in spring, and peo­ple start to get happy again, and you’re still de­pressed that you start to think about end­ing it all.

If the cold and dark­ness can make peo­ple feel de­pressed, the sun typ­i­cally does the op­po­site. Sun­light makes peo­ple more help­ful. In one study, re­searchers dressed up as hitch­hik­ers and stuck their thumbs out on rainy and sunny days – and driv­ers were more likely to pick them up on sunny days. Though that could also be be­cause on rainy days peo­ple were more likely to be re­minded that some hitch­hiker might be a se­rial killer ....

If you’re a guy, women have been shown in an­other study to be more will­ing to im­part their phone num­ber to a stranger on a sunny day than a rainy day. Pre­sum­ably men are will­ing to hand out their phone numbers at any time of the year ....

And fi­nally, the sun makes peo­ple want to spend more money. Re­searchers found that the sun makes peo­ple feel more pos­i­tive, which makes then want to shed their cash – which, iron­i­cally, will prob­a­bly make them feel neg­a­tive later, but who cares! The sun’s out!

Now just be­cause the weather can af­fect our moods doesn’t mean it has to. A study of Dutch teenagers’ moods found that just over 50% were af­fected by weather; of those,

17% were hap­pier in sum­mer, 27% hated sum­mer – that just sounds un­nat­u­ral – and 9% were rain haters.

The other way to be un­af­fected by weather is to avoid it. An­other study found that men were more likely to change their plans be­cause of weather while women were less likely to mod­ify their ac­tiv­i­ties, mean­ing they of­ten are hik­ing in ty­phoons. Which ex­plains why I’ve been hik­ing in ty­phoons with my girl­friend. (Ty­phoons cour­tesy of Trop­i­cal Storm Mer­bock, which hit Hong Kong ear­lier this month.)

In any case, being out­side in any nice weather is said to im­prove mood, mem­ory, and cre­ativ­ity. So I’m headed out to im­prove all those things – once it stops rain­ing for five min­utes.

Catch Jason God­frey on In­spir­ing Homes on Life In­spired (Astro CH 728).

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