Is Happiness Really Just a State of Mind?

              When I left my office last Friday at around 6:30, it was dark, as in night-time dark.  I wasn’t surprised or particularly depressed.  After all, I’d been dealing with the same experience for the past four months.

              But something must have happened over the weekend, because when I left my office on Monday at 6:30, it was still very bright outside; in fact, the sun was shining.  And for some reason, I was feeling wonderful, almost as if I was on top of the world, as they say.  Now, to be sure, I’m still very much the same person, with a body that is increasingly reminding me that I’m no spring chicken anymore and with a list of anxieties and worries and uncompleted tasks and seemingly improbable goals that I’ve been carrying around for most of my life.  But still, as I walked to my car in sunlight on Monday at 6:30, I was feeling great.

              What a difference a weekend can make, or, to be more specific, what a difference what happened over a weekend can make.  In this instance, of course, what happened was that daylight savings time kicked in.  We advanced the clocks by an hour in most parts of the country, which means we get an extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day.  And that extra hour of sunlight, coupled, conveniently, with pleasant weather in my part of the world (Sacramento, CA), produces the kind of natural high that I’m told is every bit as good as most drug-induced equivalents.

              Ah, spring.  It does wonders for the psyche, doesn’t it?  And isn’t it grand to have all this daylight ever expanding before us.  Over the next three and a half months, the days will get progressively longer as the afternoons extend into what was the dead of night just months earlier.  And, as the days continue to get longer, we’ll also be getting better weather, in most parts of the country probably the best weather of the entire year.

              So, what’s my point?  Just that we’re captives of the elements in more ways than we realize.  Winters can be just plain lousy, with all the nasty weather and the seemingly eternal darkness.  It’s dark when we get up, it’s dark when we go to work, and it’s dark when we come home from work.  And in addition to the darkness, it’s also either raining or snowing or just bitter cold most of the time. 

              Here in the Sacramento Valley, we can get a heavy layer of cloud cover (they call it the Tule Fog, named after the Tule Grass Wetlands that are endemic to the area), wherein we might not see the sun for two straight months.  (This winter was an exception, as we had two straight months of spring-like weather that has created a terrible drought scare, but that’s another story.)   

              And then, suddenly, we turn the clocks ahead one hour and everything seems better, brighter, happier.  Are our lives really all that different?  Should we let ourselves be so tuned to the conditions over which we have no control?  What about the things we can control?  And shouldn’t our moods be one of them?

              Don’t get me wrong.  I’m really not complaining.  I mean things have only gotten better in my lifetime with respect to that daylight savings thing.  When I was a kid, we didn’t get to change the clocks until mid-April (much too late), and then we were changing them back in mid-October (much too early).  That only gave us six months of late sunsets, whereas now we get fully eight months of driving home in sunshine.  No, I’m definitely not complaining.

              But I do wish there was a way to miss those dreary dark winter months entirely.  Maybe hibernation would do it, like the bears: just crawl into bed and pull the sheets over our heads and not get up until that first Sunday in March.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

              Of course, now that I think of it, I wouldn’t want to miss out on the holidays.  Not that I’m a big fan of all the commercialism attached to them, but I do enjoy a good party, and we sure seem to have a bundle of them in the winter.  There are all those holiday parties and New Year’s Eve parties and Super Bowl parties.  Heck, that whole run from late November to early February is just about all party-time.

              And I really do enjoy the family gatherings and events that occur during the winter months – Thanksgiving dinner, shopping for and trimming the Christmas tree.  I even enjoy an occasional holiday concert that I might attend with my wife and sons.

              So, no, I guess I wouldn’t really want to hibernate.  In fact, now that I think about it, I guess those months when we seem to be living in darkness aren’t all that bad.  I mean tin addition to the parties and the family time, there’s also a lot of down time at work, what with the holidays and the parties and the general good spirits that seem to keep everybody’s Scrooge-personas in check.  It’s nice to feel good about everybody, which is how most everybody seems to feel around the holidays, what with the cards and the gifts and the general bonhomie that keeps a smile on everyone’s face.

              Yeah, I guess I like the winter months enough.  They aren’t so bad, when you think about it. 

              So what have I uncovered in what started out as an ode to daylight savings time and ended up as a positive review of the dark months of winter?  Just that our happiness and the moods we choose to adopt at any given time of the year are no more controlled by the calendar and the amount of sunlight we get to experience as they are by our own sense of ourselves and the lives we live.

              The foregoing is offered not as a sermon, but rather as a reminder that sometimes that half-empty glass is really half full.


  • Dick Lemon

    Not a word about spring training and the start of baseball season.
    Preceeded by “March Madness”…What are you thinking!
    This is why we have daylight saving.