Oregon-AMS Meeting Summary


“Rain and Your Brain…How Weather Affects You” by Louise Lague, M.A., N.C.C.


  Thirty folks attended this dinner meeting held at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Clackamas.  We enjoyed great food and company.  Our guest speaker was Louise Lague, a practicing counselor who specializes in mid-life issues. 


  Weather drives mood and activities.  What about body regulation with dark, cloudy weather?  About 50% of the general population is affected by dark weather, 35% gain weight and have trouble waking up, 12% fight the doldrums, and 3% develop clinical depression.  This trend does not increase in Alaska.  No one really knows the details of “darkness and depression.”  Hippocrates (400 B.C.) said, “Change in the season produces illness.”  In the 1890s, Dr. Fredrik Cook was on a ship that was trapped in the Arctic sea ice for weeks and noted the behavior of the crew: weakened and lagers. 


  In the early 1900s, the Industrial Revolution fundamentally altered our way of life with electric lights, heat, and migration from rural to city life.  Life was driven by economic concerns and became increasing at odds with the natural world.  In 1900, Dr. Freud said, “It’s all your fault.”  The seasonal influence of the weather has been minimized due to new medical drugs.  During the 1930s, Darwin’s evolutionary biology stated that one should be in tune with the natural cycles, seasons, which are driven by melatonin. 


  In 1984, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was coined and bright light therapy was offered.  Modern complications include depletions (money, energy, sleep), expectations (holidays and New Year’s resolutions), and increased inflammation (e.g., arthritis).  Women are more affect by SAD than men.  People over 60 are more weather sensitive.  The “gloomiest day” of the year is January 23, according to an empirical formula.


  By 2000, Positive Psychology says that focus on what works and not what is wrong.  An Alaskan Eskimo study concludes that a “let’s sleep in” mentality during winter prevented SAD symptoms.  Urban Eskimos suffer from SAD, as do white and black co-workers.


  If you can’t sleep in, then party.  A number of holidays occur for the short days of autumn-winter: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, and Easter.  Modern additions include: MLK Day, Super-Bowl Sunday, Groundhog Day, President’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day.


  Solutions: take steps to change your thoughts and attitude, it is temporary, permission to semi-hibernate, use 10000 lux light for 30 minutes (in the morning, preferably), leave town (weekend retreat), get out of the house, sit by a window, go outside, light a fire, wear bright colors, exercise 30 minutes per day, protein enhanced meals, more vitamin D, and little alcohol.  Consider fun activities-hobbies, crafts, projects, rhythmic action, and laughter.  After the talk concluded, Louise answered several questions.  We appreciate Louise sharing her expertise with us!


Note-taker: Kyle Dittmer, OR-AMS President