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Sunshine

Monday, May 28, 2012

There is something about the sun shining in a crisp blue sky that brings out the smile in everyone. And here in many parts of the UK we have been blessed with some gorgeous rays these last few days. They have been particularly welcome given the weeks of rain we endured prior to this bright interlude. I know the rain was much needed by our drought-stressed corner of the Isle but the heavens were open for quite some time and still we’re told the water tables are nowhere near the levels they should be. And whilst I appreciate that too much of this glorious weather will not help with the general water situation, one has to admit that sunshine makes people happy. (Well, most people.)

 

For a start, we no longer need to clad our bodies in heavy materials or layers of fabric; how nice that one layer will do. It’s just so much more agreeable to see gorgeous colours, and light and playful prints rather than the dark greys, blacks and browns – the standard winter uniforms. Girls’ painted toes enhance their strappy sandals and boys get their shorts on exposing their white legs for the first time in months. But more than how people look, there’s a shift in mood too.

 

“Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.” Helen Keller

 

For some, the sunshine brings a very welcome relief indeed. According to SAD UK, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of winter depression that affects an estimated 7% of the population every winter between September and April; in particular during December, January and February. The symptoms can include depression, loss of libido, sleep problems and anxiety among other things so a change from the dark, dull days of winter to brighter Spring and Summer sunshine are welcome indeed.

 

Sunshine is good for our bones too. The Vitamin D we produce helps us to increase the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from our small intestine, which regulates the amount of calcium in the blood, and strengthens our bones and teeth. So even a short stroll for 20 minutes outside – come rain or shine – can help with this. (Balancing of course the risk of skin cancer so it’s also important to protect skin and avoid getting burned.)

 

Feeling the warmth of the sun on your back or face seems to help energize us and even take away any aches and pains. Think of a time either just recently, or perhaps when you went on holiday, when you first felt that delicious warmth on your skin after months of cool temperatures. You close your eyes, breathe in and enjoy the renewing sensation of sunlight.

 

For me, sunshine really brings out the richness of the colours in our world. It’s like the palette changes from dull to bright, the contrast improves and everything is a little more defined, a bit brighter and more appealing. I also think people can be like sunshine. I used to say to myself each time I came back from a stint in Costa Rica, and walked back into an office, suited and booted for work – laughing to myself at the contrast of my life from tropical beaches and planting lettuce, to board meetings - that I was bringing a little bit of sunshine into a corporate world and I really notice and appreciate those that do the same. The ones who smile at you when they serve you your meal, or hand you your change. The clients who say ‘thank you’ and mean it. The friends who laugh with you and share a moment of joy with you.

 

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” Nhat Hanh

 

What is that thing that people with a sunny disposition have? Is it simply a warm and engaging smile? A bright and cheerful personality? Someone who sees the positive in things? Is it a permanent trait or characteristic, or does it come and go? When I see my son laughing, or he has with a huge grin on his face I think that he’s a very happy, sunny child. But as any parent knows, these wonderful moments of joy are also punctuated by absolute contrasts of appalling outbursts or tantrums, or sheer bloody moodiness. Not so sunny then eh? And even speaking for myself, there are definitely times – like the weather itself – when my own mood will change from cheerfulness to darker introspection, like a gathering of storm clouds, as I work through something or deal with those pesky hormones once a month.

 

If you could describe yourself as weather, what would you be? A fluffy cloud? Inclement? A rainbow adorned sky? Or a big ball of sunshine? Answers on a postcard please…or right here in the comment space!