April Showers Bring May…..Mindfulness?

Today as I write this, the sky is grey and overcast with a general heaviness in the air.  The humidity is making my hair frizz to new heights and my overall feeling is one of “bleh.”  Is anyone else like me and finding it impossible to motivate in the rain?  Moreover, is anyone else desperate to keep the “gloomies” at bay during these cloudy days?

My husband is a true islander, in that he was born in Japan and raised in the UK. While they are both very different climate-wise, I feel his body is truly made to adapt to extreme humidity (and extreme cloudiness)….while mine is definitely not. There is a word in Japanese for this sticky heaviness. Atsui! It was one of the first words I learned when spending summers travelling across the different islands of Japan and attending famous festivals with lots of dancing, eating, and learning. [This just so happens to be how my husband and I met randomly in a train station in Sapporo, Japan on the northernmost island of Hokkaido. We were both wandering souls looking for adventure….but that’s a story for another day!]

On his other native land, the island of Great Britain, the weather is rarely that hot. But, on those precious days that you would see clear sunny skies, you’d find everybody and their uncle out sunbathing in the park. Businesses would let workers go home early, and these days had a feeling of holiday to them. I lived for those days, as much of the year was spent in a constant state of gray. The trope of rainy Britain holds quite a bit of truth to it!

As a Midwestern gal used to all four seasons of weather (often within the same month), it was an extremely hard adjustment. One that I didn’t even realize was taking a toll on my mental health. My in-laws suggested a Vitamin-D lamp, joking that a lot of ex-pats used them. There are some people who just NEED the sunlight, and I am definitely one of them. My husband, on the other hand, says that the gray, rainy days like today bring him a sense of home—a sense of comfort in the discomfort. One of my East Coast friends also says that the rain energizes her because of the coolness in the air. How interesting that we seem to be so influenced by our natural physical environments!

As a teacher, I am constantly reminded that children are a product of their environment and their homelife.  A child’s basic needs of food, water, shelter, and emotional safety must be met before they can even begin to focus on learning.  Children are sponges soaking up every word, every action, every emotion – even when they don’t quite have the tools to fully process this information.  We carry the significance of these words and actions into adulthood, where they have become a key part of the development of who we are as people.  The formative years of 0-5 are where much of this “soaking up” takes place, as our brains are the most sponge-like during this time.  So much of our personality is set by the age of 5.

Is this to say that we can’t adapt to new surroundings? Of course not! But again, it is so important even in adulthood to make sure our basic needs are being met so that our brains have the freedom to grow. New behaviors and new environments are constantly supplying us with tactile and sensory information, and our brains are so well-trained to learn and create new neural pathways. But as we grow up, we lose some of this elasticity and innate ability to adapt. Ever heard the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Well, you certainly can. But she might need a Vitamin-D lamp every now and then.