It’s been raining a lot my dear girlfriends. I know, I know I live in Vancouver. It rains here. And yes, “April showers bring May flowers” but man oh man. Don’t those flowers need a little bit of sun as well?
As many of my girlfriends know I am an avid cyclist- riding my fair streets for ass and country and I must admit the constant spray in my face (and up my back) is getting to me.
Sure I am well equipped with a fabulous rain suit that does in fact make me look like a cross between a superhero and a city maintenance man and yes it does keep me relatively dry. Add to that the fact that I have this crazy ethnic hair that seems respond very well to a good dosing of rain and bike helmet and the advantage that “Bed-Head” is still very much “in”. In fact this rain has really not been something to complain about in the past. Truth be told, I have always loved the rain.
You can’t shovel rain and having spent many of my formative years waiting for public transport during prairie winters I am a fan of weather that allows only for a light trench-coat and a few smartly planned layers. Nothing ruins my winter buzz more than sensible boots with rubber treads and a poufy down jacket that adds 20 pounds and makes me look even more “hippy”.
I love being able to run outside all winter long without worrying about a wind-chill and how long it will take for my face to freeze off.
But lately I am finding that the last 6 months have taken their toll and I am jonesing for a little ray of sunshine. I blame Celia. Allow me to explain.
Celia is my new bike. Correction, Celia is THE bike to end all bikes. Celia (Italian for Angel) is a goddess.
A black, red, white and blue piece of fabulous machinery Celia is lighter and more comfortable than Bella. P.S. Don’t tell Bella- she will only become resentful and I need a bike to ride in the winter when the rain is REALLY bad.
That being said- I was really looking forward to me and Celia having many a sunny day ahead of us. Not so- heads up world- we’re soaked. In the words of B. J. Thomas’s classic- “raindrops keep falling on my head”…. Sing it girlfriends, you know you want to.
So I could not help but wonder if all this cloud cover was indeed clouding my mood as well?
Here’s the interesting thing about darkness and light. Our brains have a physiological response to shades of grey.
When our eyes detect darkness, a small gland in the brain called the pineal releases melatonin, which establishes sleep cycles. When we detect light, melatonin production subsides and its happier hormonal sibling, serotonin, takes over to promote wakefulness and help elevate mood.
Some of my sisters may have heard of the term- Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Research on SAD has been focused on the brain's response to darkness and light, as the condition has been linked to the shortened daylight hours of winter. SAD has indeed been recognized as a disorder in the DSMIV (the holy bible of mental illnesses) and I am not disputing its existence.
But I wondered if there was evidence that weather affects mood in those of us without SAD? Can the saying be true? Can we really see clearly now the rain has gone? Do the dark clouds really have me blind?
Turns out… not so much.
A variety of research has been done to explore the effects of weather on mood and cognitive function. Summary judgement, girlfriends…. Very little effect. There are a few hallmark trials, albeit of questionable design that show very little effect of weather on cognitive function and mood.
Firstly, A study published in 1997 out of Scandinavia found that people who lived in sunny places were no more miserable than those who lived in rainy ones. Further data came forth in the years 2000-2005 to show that variations in temperature in countries did nothing to affect mood and productivity. I won’t give you all the details- just take my word for it- the science does not support a warm heart and a clean head.
Finally a large-scale trial published in 2008 by the American Psychological Society out of a group in Berlin showed little effect of weather variations on emotions in over 1200 Germans.
The study examined the effects of six weather parameters (temperature, wind power, sunlight, precipitation, air pressure, and photoperiod) on mood (positive affect, negative affect, and tiredness). Data were gathered from an online diary study of 1233 people linked to weather station data, and analyzed by means of multilevel analysis. The results revealed main effects of temperature, wind power, and sunlight on negative affect. Sunlight had a main effect on tiredness and mediated the effects of precipitation and air pressure on tiredness. The effect however was minimal at best. The effect of weather on mood as well was small.
Windy, cool and darker days seemed to have just a slight negative effect on mood, with many subjects reporting that they felt tired or sluggish.
The problem with this study is that it can be very subjective and really at best, it strains to draw any consensus. From the range of responses the study's subjects recorded in their journaling, the researchers determined in the end that "people differ in their sensitivity to daily weather changes." Really? No shit.
So, there you have it. Another day- another rainy dark and gloomy day. I don’t have science to back me up and my bike shoes are soaking wet. Off I go for another ride in the rain safe in the knowledge that humidity is good for my curls and bitching although necessary at times… is not to be made into a habit. As J.D. Thomas says… (sing it with me girlfriends)
“Cryin’s not for me- cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining… because I’m free. Nothing is worrying me.”
Amen my sisters, Amen.