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Just hang in there

In this week's Wellbeing Matters, our Director of Wellbeing, Matt Shroff, looks at how the weather and amount of sleep can affect mood and decision-making. 

I'm not sure, but I imagine there probably have been studies on how climate and weather affects not just mood, but the actual mindset of people or a culture.  The warm and sunny climate of the Med, compared with the cooler and harsher climate on Northern Europe.  The relaxed and less intense mindset of places like Greece, or the more serious or proper attitudes of Germany or Norway (or perhaps the UK?).

I'm sure there's a link with diet too - tomatoes and fish and olive oil vs potatoes and bread and cabbage.  I know this is a stereotype - a historical one at that - but it might show that these are factors that contribute to, or are caused by, a particular way of thinking.

Research has clearly demonstrated the existence of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is caused by lack of sunlight, not only on the skin but actually reaching the brain via the optic nerves.  I'm sure we're all aware that when the sun is out and the days are long, we all generally feel more positive and happier.

And such is life.  In dark moments, it can feel like there is no hope, no chance of things getting better, no end in sight.  Yet these do pass, things do get better, and hope is born anew.

This can happen in a general sense, but also quite specifically.  Towards the end of the day, mood tends to drop off as the brain chemistry changes.  This is a signal to go to bed, to get that sleep that flushes out the brain and refreshes the body.  But we can feel low at these times, hence why things often seem worse at night.  In the morning, the brain has reset, and we can start being more positive and in control.

This should affect our decision-making processes.  Is night a good time to make hard choices?  Is first thing in the morning?  Sometimes I wonder what poor choices have been made (politicians and myself included) late at night.  It also highlights the importance of good sleep, both on physical health and mental.  The European Union has recently recognised that lack of good quality sleep is both a cause of mental illness and a probable carcinogen.

The old adage, 'It will be better in the morning', actually is true.  And when people say, 'just get through the next day', the next hour, even the next minute, it is with the same knowledge that things will get better, so just hang in there.  Just get through it and you will feel better.

We can't always solve other's problems.  But we can hang in there with them, hold their hand, and let them know that dawn will come.  That's my experience.

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