Psyching the Zietgeist:
Current Culture Through a Mental Health Lens

Can Weather Bring Us Together? How Chats About the Weather May Be Emotionally Regulating

It happens every year in Seattle. The big yellow orb in the sky crawls out from its 10-month sabbatical and shines brilliantly on all below. People who normally wouldn’t even look at each other as they pass on the street not only glance up, but…smile! Almost every conversation on those days starts with, “Isn’t it a beautiful day?” Every year I look forward to this phenomenon, and also am so curious about it. What is it about weather that it changes our moods so broadly?

This doesn’t seem to happen with just the sun. This past year Seattle experienced what was appropriately described as “Snowmeggedon”. The entire area fell mercy to a blanket of snow that disrupted every normal daily rhythm. During that experience I also noticed that weather was the topic of conversation everywhere I went. It was as if it was the only thing going on in our immediate area, and our immediate weather experience seemed to temporarily be our exclusive experience of the world.  I noticed my own mind felt snowed in. I was constantly checking the weather reports and checking in with local friends.

It turns out that extreme weather carries its own psychological experience that is rooted in community. In the article The Psychology of Extreme Weather, Dr. Alan Stewart, who studies the psychology of weather and climate at the University of Georgia, observes that talking to each other helps us process our concerns and feelings about the weather we are experiencing. He maintains that sharing our common experience of the weather results in a coping mechanism. What is so powerful about local weather is that it connects you with people who are used to the same external weather situation you are. This puts some interesting context to how we experience our local weather. For us in Seattle, snow (and sunshine for that matter) is more rare, so when it appears we are navigating it in the context of our local geographical land. When another person can relate to, and understand our experience, we often feel more emotionally calm and known.

So next time you talk about the weather locally, you may simultaneously be regulating part of your emotional experience as well as being savvy on the latest forecast – how’s that for small talk?

by Janelle Chandler

Dogs and people

I am a cat person. I am, however, increasingly appreciative of the many qualities that dogs bring to their human companions. In ‘Dogs’, Netflix’s new documentary series, we see six stories centered on how dogs and people change each other’s lives.

The first episode, ‘The Kid with the Dog’, focuses on service dogs who are trained to help children with disabilities. We meet Corrine, a girl who has life-threatening epilepsy, and Rory, the dog trained to alert others when she has seizures. This episode is a complex portrait of the burdens placed on families with special needs children. We see how Rory brings hope to this family as he takes on some of this burden.

The six stories in the series vary widely, from Japanese dog groomers at an American grooming competition to a refuge in Costa Rica that houses over a thousand abandoned dogs. Each episode shows the interdependence of people and dogs in different parts of the world. This documentary series is both touching and thought-provoking, for cat and dog people alike.

by Elana Kupor

Posted on December 18, 2018
Posted in Quality of LifeTagged ,


The opinions expressed in this post are the views of the author(s) and don't necessarily reflect those of other members of the Women's Therapy Referral Service.