After having gone through this past winter, especially February being the coldest month in over 100yrs; I was always intrigued as to why people were so grumpy during this time of year. The cold weather seems to turn us into grouches, why is that?
This winter was my first, in a long time, to walk, take public transportation, and not drive everywhere. I made the decision last summer that I would sell my vehicle to save a few extra dollars and have a little more flexibility in my budget. Knowing this, I prepared for my winter outings accordingly: get warm winter boots, wear extra layers when going out, and make sure the scarf, hat, and mittens are worn at all times. I had a great winter!
I was out daily and the weather didn’t seem to affect me but why was everyone else so unhappy about this weather? It didn’t feel that bad to me.
Here’s what I discovered… This March things are finally starting to get warmer, which means no more extra layers needed. However, there is still that fluctuation in temperatures happening; warm one day and cold the next. I started noticing the impact of temperature changes on my body (since I wasn’t wearing the layers anymore). I was actually getting cold and grumpy too. How interesting…
Here’s what I concluded from this little scientific experiment. Let’s break it down: “When you feel cold, tiny sensors in your skin send messages to your brain telling you need to warm up. Your brain sends messages to nerves all over your body telling your muscles to tighten and loosen really fast, which is what we call shivering. It does this because when muscles move they generate heat.”1
Perfect explanation to why we shiver when we’re cold but how does this explain why we get moody? This is what I understood, our body and brain communicates also on an emotional level when this shivering happens. Because the brain is telling the muscles to tighten and loosen, the emotional part of your brain registers this information also as tension in the body. And what happens to us when we feel tense? Most of the time, we associate this tension in the body to stress in our lives; causing us to react in certain ways. The body and brain thinks it’s living a stressful situation causing it to tense but really all the body is trying to do is warm up.
Ok, so now the body and brain is dealing with stress and tension and attaching it to emotions. What are the major emotional reactions we encounter when people are stressed and tense? Those are: impatience, anger, grumpiness, moodiness, exhaustion… They are often the symptoms we see with bad weather. See a pattern here?
My body was physically in pain from being cold and shivering, which made me moody and tired because I felt tensed and stressed. All I was searching for was comfort and warmth to calm everything down and to relax. When cold, our bodies are not relaxed so we react due to the discomfort. This also explains why in warmer weather people seem to be much more pleasant. They’re happy, laid back, and relaxed. They are not dealing with the physical discomforts which trigger the mood swings.
So there you go! Now I understand why cold weather makes people grumpy. Our brain and body is experiencing one thing through the shiver but it’s also attaching emotional baggage to it causing it to react emotionally.
In the future, when I know cold weather is scheduled to be, I am guaranteed to add the extra layers on to keep my comfort level up. When I’ll encounter someone who is moody due to weather, I will try my best to offer them something warm to help them relax. If you notice tension in yourself or someone else, the first thing to do is introduce relaxation in your body. Whatever tense muscles you feel, make a conscious decision to relax them and notice what it does to your mood. Life is too beautiful to not be comfortable in it.
Until next time!