Does living in the sunshine really make us happier?

Does living in the sunshine really make us happier?

Off the back of a long Labour Day weekend of miserable heatwave (102 degrees inside the house is not my idea of fun right now!) I’m asking myself this question again… And, although I’ve always professed to be an ‘all four seasons’ kinda gal, I have to admit that ~ while there are things I miss about England ~ living in the sunshine really does seem to make a difference to our quality of life. We live outdoors more. Our kids live outdoors more. Day to day living is just easier. But does it really make us happier?

An ex co-worker (colleague😉) once told me that “We Californians know how to enjoy each other” and that (slightly creepy) phrase stuck with me as just exactly right. Californians smile at each other, they wave to each other, they stick their noses into each others’ business.  Give a local a grumpy or sarky response and you’ll often just get a genuinely confused expression in return. They just assume that happy positivity is the mature, adult norm. Nearly every day of my life here I am cheered and sometimes overwhelmed by the positive, happy, super friendly and at times  over-involving demeanor of everyone I come into contact with.

But there are times when it all falls apart… When the everyone sits in their cars, moodily honking their horns and cutting each other up. I’ve even seen eye rolls. Heard audible tutting! These are the days when it RAINS.  I’ve seen you Californians, on those miserable days, pushing your way into line at Starbucks, silently standing on someone’s foot on the BART… just like the rest of us. This behavior goes on all the time in the everyday grey places of the world, but here in forever-sunny California it’s pretty damn rare.

Big M is convinced he suffers from what I’ve always been convinced is that made-up neurosis Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. (Eye roll). He’s not alone. A lot of people believe that the sunshine affects their mental state more than any other factor. So are Californians just genetically predetermined to be more positive people? Or is it the year round sunshine that creates this open and happy culture on the south west coast? Evidenced by the frightening sea change in character here during the foggy and rainy days I’d say the latter! So let’s camp out in the sunshine forever right?!

But here’s the rub. I can’t help but be nostalgic for the pure joy of a sudden hot summer’s day in the England. When, after months of soggy grey or icy wind, the world changes into relaxed, golden, hyped-up happiness. You just don’t get that in places where blues skies are taken for granted. If anything, living in the sunshine strips away those magical moments when the sun comes out and your heart sores. That said, it also definitely strips away the many ‘ughh I can’t get out of bed today because the sky is the same colour as my unwashed sheets’ moments. (Yik, one mental image too far).

So it’s true, I am definitely on a more emotional even keel living in California with the sunny people. That old adage ‘smile and the world smiles with you’?  Well here I feel like the world always smiles at me and so, most of the time, I manage to smile back. Maybe I am even  ‘happier’ over all. But honestly, as a dyed in the wool ‘cold country’ dweller I think a part of me will always miss the agony and the ecstasy of the British climate.

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