Yesterday it finally felt like spring had arrived. The air was warm, a scent of jonquils was in the air and I even had a touch of hay-fever! I know that means for many of you at the other end of the world the leaves will be turning yellow and you will be reaching for a jacket.
I have heard stories from expats and migrants who moved here, to Australia, unaware that the seasons were in opposition. They arrived shivering in their summer weight clothing or sweating in their fur coats.
But aside from getting your packing and shipping clothes in the right order, does moving climates matter? Does the weather affect us and create another thing we need to adapt to?
Surprisingly not as much as you might think! Research shows severe emotional responses to winter weather (Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD) are not very common, while other research shows there is no real effect of weather on your mood if you are already feeling positive. However, if you are already feeling down, changes in the weather can impact on that mood.
It makes sense.
We know that exercise improves mood and increases energy. We know that being in nature elevates mood and decreases feelings of stress. Sudden changes in our experience of the weather may lead to us limiting our exercise or decreasing our time in nature and if we are feeling down that will create a downward spiral.
If we have newly arrived it will also impact on our ability to begin to gain a familiarity with our neighbourhood and our new location as we may limit our exploring.
So what can we do about it? Firstly set expectations. Do the research so you know what to expect. Get the conversions between fahrenheit and centigrade. Don’t just compare daytime highs, but also nighttime lows, humidity and wind factors. They all add up to a full picture of the climate.
Secondly, get the right gear. We are more likely to get out and about if we are dressed for it, so come prepared or go shopping as soon as you arrive.
Thirdly remind yourself of the other aspects that may be more appealing about this location. Look for new and different ways to experience the climate and for the local food and drink that go with the season.
Look around you to see the beauty of nature in the current season. Even one small bush, or the sunshine through the clouds will be a thing of beauty if it’s observed closely and appreciated.
Don’t forget to ask the locals for advice. They will know how best to heat or cool the house, clear the snow, or when to watch for the cooling sea breeze.
And, most of all, hold yourself gently.
This is a major life adjustment and there will be ups and downs. If you are feeling down remind yourself this is a normal response that will pass. Just as the climate you are currently experiencing will change as the seasons progress.