Can the weather affect your emotions?
That's men: The Irish language recognises the movement of emotion. ‘Tá brón orm’, sadness is upon me
The Mindfulness Matters project is inspired by the fact that whenever Derval Dunford looks out her window at home she sees Croagh Patrick in its various moods.
I have a persistent memory of a man who had retired from farming sitting outside his home in Naas, basking in the sunshine as my father and I drove by.
I don’t recall the time of year but if he had still been farming he would have been worrying about getting a meadow mowed to make hay while the sunshine lasted, or getting someone in to cut wheat or barley or oats before the rain came. His specific set of worries would have depended on the time of year. But he most certainly would not have been basking.
To men like my father, this was a sad picture. I said that this man had retired. To the farmers of the day, this went against nature. How could you be happy if you gave up your farm? What could sitting in the sun do only torment you with memories of what you might be doing if you were not sitting in the sun?
I thought then and I think now that he was well out of it. When you are a farmer or growing up on a farm, the weather is never off your mind. You can spend a fortune on machinery, buildings and stock but the weather will dictate whether you make or lose money in a year.
“March of many weathers”, as it’s called, is around the corner, and country and urban dwellers can expect to get rained on, blown about, shined on and maybe snowed on.
March 1st also sees the start of Seachtain na Gaeilge which runs until March 17th, a period you may observe is longer than a week but let’s not worry about that – just think of it as Seachtain Fada na Gaeilge.
I was interested to see that Mindfulness Matters, which does a lot of work with pupils in primary schools and with their teachers, is launching a Seachtain na Gaeilge project built around the weather and the changeability of emotions.
They are encouraging anybody who wants to take part to observe images of the external weather on Croagh Patrick every morning and evening and also to observe their own internal weather – their emotions and thoughts.
“The weather changes, emotions change, life changes moment by moment. The Irish language recognises the movement of emotion. In Irish we cannot say ‘I am sad’. We say ‘Tá brón orm’ – sadness is upon me. Just as sadness comes upon me so too will it move off again because nothing is permanent,” say Derval Dunford and Ann Caulfield of Mindfulness Matters.
“When we become aware that we are not our thoughts or emotions, we can sit and observe them as they come and go. We may begin to notice their transient nature, similar to the weather and clouds in the sky. We can experience happiness, sadness, peace and much more, all in one day. Emotions come, linger for a while and change. None of them will stay forever.”
The Mindfulness Matters project is inspired by the fact that whenever Dunford looks out her window at home she sees Croagh Patrick in its various moods.
A study published by Oxford University in 2012 suggested that short-term changes in weather affect our emotions but overall climate doesn’t. Life satisfaction goes up when we get more sunshine. A fall in sea level pressure also increases satisfaction. A fall in wind speed makes women happier. These effects are small, I might add, and I haven’t a clue why they happen. These are all effects of temporary weather changes – we are so good at adapting to long-term circumstances that climate change shouldn’t affect our sense of wellbeing.
While most of Mindfulness Matters work is with primary school children, you don’t have to be a child to take part in their Seachtain na Gaeilge project.
Anyone can do it. Even retired farmers.
Padraig O’Morain is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His latest book is Mindfulness for Worriers. His daily mindfulness reminder is free by email.