Learn to love the rain
A chance remark set me thinking. On top of the mess that was International Day of Happiness, it set me thinking quite hard.
On numerous occasions I see friends complaining about the weather. Being British, it’s fair to say we have a lot of weather here and while the variations are quite impressive (the average April day defies logic and even belief, some times) we don’t really get the extremes other countries do and we don’t cope well when our weather goes a bit further than we’re comfortable with. Many, though, express the wish that we could have sunshine all the time. The grey British winter can make the most stalwart of us wish for blue skies and blazing sunshine, but that’s not what I really mean.
In the summer of 1976, I think even the most sun-loving Brits got more than they bargained for. Lawns dried, then died. Hose-pipe bans followed, and further restrictions followed. We were exhorted to save water, “Bath with a friend,” and animal behaviour became affected. A wave of starving ladybirds washed over the country; they had eaten all the greenfly, then because roses were dying for lack of water, the greenfly simple disappeared. I’ve never been bitten by a ladybird since then but they became a pest that summer. I suspect that the drought in the UK was so severe it will show in tree rings.
Rain is essential to life. I live in a land that is damp and while rainfall varies from county to county, it’s safe to say the land as a whole is moist. It needs to be. Crops need water; watching potato fields being automatically watered makes me think that some of our crops might need more help than is wise. The summer of ’76 I watched wheat and barley fail to swell, then dry up and die. Food prices may well have risen that autumn but I was too young to notice.
It’s the same with our internal weather. It’s foolish and unrealistic to aim for wall-to-wall happiness; would you recognise it if you had not experienced the other pole? The International Day of Happiness annoyed me because much of the publicity implied that we can CHOOSE to be happy. This is insulting and damaging especially to those of us affected by mental health issues such as depression. We CAN choose to do things to improve our mood, and we can do many of the things suggested on the literature provided by the official site (acts of kindness to others, positive self talk, treating the self with kindness, exercise and fresh air and so on) but there should not be any implication that these actions and attitudes will result in beaming happiness 24/7.
There was recent research that suggested also that the brains of those suffering with depression retain the feel-good chemicals for much shorter times than the brains of non-depressed people. This would tie in with both observation and experience. A good thing happens, and for some that is enough to keep them feeling good for days; yet for a depressed person, the lift is both less intense and less long lasting. There is also growing evidence that depressed brains work quite differently to non depressed brains in other ways:
“The study demonstrates that brain regions, collectively known as the default mode network, behave differently in depressed people. The default network typically is active when the mind wanders. It shuts down when an individual focuses on the job at hand. But the researchers found the network stays active in people who are depressed, even when they are concentrating on specific tasks.
The new work suggests individuals with depression may not be able to “lose themselves” in work, music, exercise or other activities that enable most healthy people to get “outside” of themselves.”
In life, there will always be sunshine and showers. Just as we usually accept that without the rain, nothing can live or grow, perhaps it is time to accept also that the metaphorical rain storms have their place and that too much sunshine of either type is damaging.
When it rains, watch, especially in the summer months. See how the earth responds with petrichor and the creatures of the earth rejoice in the falling of rain of dry earth and how things that seemed dry and dying rapidly become green and lush again and how in the days after rainfall, there is a rush of blossoms. Learn to love the rain, whether it falls internally or externally, for both will bring renewal and growth.