This year I plan to make the sojourn back to the motherland in good old Saskatoon Saskatchewan. Now for the past couple of weeks I have been sharing this news when asked what plans I have for the Christmas Holidays, and more often than not the response I get to my reply has been something like: “Oh wow! Good luck!” or “Really? Why?” or “Oh dear, it’s so cold there!!” or something to that effect. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really find this offensive – I get it. It is cold there and we West Coasters are quite pampered with our mild and relatively comfortable winters. Some might say we’re even a little too weather wimpy for our own good – the city practically shuts down at a mere dusting of snowfall. Anyway, sure, great that it’s warmer here, but don’t bother wasting your time pitying those who chose to live in, or visit, [much] colder temperatures.
Believe it or not, research shows that those who live in colder, windier, snowier weather for a good portion of the year are no less happy than those who live in the most mild and balmy year-round climates. In a recent happiness study, researchers interviewed people from both the Mid-Western and the South-Western United States (think Minnesota and California), and what they found was that the climate zone in which each participant lived bared no real impact on their level of general happiness. Sure, the mid-westerners said that it gets darn cold in the winter, but this was a neutral statement based on fact rather than the recount of a heavy hearted daily lament.
So then what can be gained from focusing some, if any, of our attention on the sub-zero winter temperatures that our prairie neighbours seem to get along just fine in? We can use it as an opportunity to reflect on and be grateful for what we do appreciate about living in a milder climate. Whatever that may be. Intentional and explicit thoughts and words gratitude actually do have a fair amount of impact on feelings of happiness and well-being. Weather does not.