Imagine this: it’s an early January morning but it’s pitch-black outside. There isn’t a single white cloud in the sky, only raindrops falling from a greyish background. You squirm around in bed, struggling to leave the warmth of your bed sheets. You strategically think of how many layers you can wear while still being able to function normally. Soon enough, you make it to your office after rushing to beat the nefarious traffic. There, you find yourself making your first cup of coffee and starting with your first task of the day, early on.
From afar, it seems like a romanticized morning in Paris or London or even in Beirut. Up close, it’s nothing but the mere reality of the cruel winter season; the season everyone loves to hate, and hates to love.
You don’t need to imagine the scenario. It happened this morning; in fact, it’s happened every morning since the start of the stormy weather in Lebanon. Despite the cold, gloomy climate, you feel a burst of creativity; a zap of motivation hits you and you sit at your desk to start your work process earlier than usual. Normally, you’d think it’s because you want to finish early so you can leave on time. But according to NYU professor who studies behavioral economics, decision making and marketing, Adam Alter, this sudden surge of creativity is due to the “bad” weather.
It’s pretty common for us to try to keep ourselves busy during dark, winter days. We find things around the house that need to be finalized, we resume hobbies that we haven’t tended to in a while or we simply watch the movie that has been on our “to-watch” list since last year and snuggle up with some hot cocoa. At the office, we brainstorm ideas for pitches and start work on huge projects that we have been delaying for days. For students, it becomes so simple to listen to some music while focusing on calculus or some other subject that they think they’re not good at.
Whichever is the case, we do these things to avoid feeling down in a season that’s known to bring down the toughest of the tough, the season associated with “seasonal mood disorder”.
In Alter’s perspective, “bad” weather opens us up to creativity while “good” weather distracts us. On sunny, summer days, we are too preoccupied by thinking of suntanning on white sand, sipping on our ice-cold beer and taking cold showers to think of the things that really matter. We are too busy daydreaming of where we will be spending our weekends and which ice-cream flavor to get after lunch to care for the deadlines and responsibilities that are now piling on. But in winter, we want to avoid seasonal depression so much that our creative juices get flowing and we produce some of our best work.
“Humans are biologically predisposed to avoid sadness, and they respond to sad moods by seeking opportunities for mood repair and vigilantly protecting themselves against whatever might be making them sad. In contrast, happiness sends a signal that everything is fine, the environment doesn’t pose an imminent threat, and there’s no need to think deeply and carefully.”
Does Alter’s thesis on weather and creativity make sense? I ponder this deeply as I recline in my office chair, listening to this drizzles of rain interrupted by thunder and write this, after having struggled for months to write something decent, or merely just anything.
MAD Community Manager