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Davis

Davis, California

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Column: Here comes the sun

Ah, sun. How we missed you. Now that you’re back, social opportunities abound throughout Davis. My Stewie Griffin nerfball, who’s been holed up inside all winter, waits on the bookshelf to be taken out and thrown around in the greenbelt. Bodies litter the quad, and academic productivity…

Well, let’s just say most everyone I’ve talked to hasn’t used their sunny weather happiness to work on what’s beneficial in the long run. Many haven’t been able to get their head into their studies, the common complaint being, “Why couldn’t the weather have been like this last week during spring break?”

If you look around the streets right now, the outdoor areas of Davis are flocked. Happy dogs bound through Central Park. In many a front yard, college guys play beer pong, honing their game in time for Picnic Day. Conversely, when I made a trip to the library the other day to print some papers, it was virtually empty.

Maybe this is just because it’s the first week back and we take time to adjust, regardless of weather. Whatever the reason, I know I’ve already neglected the large amount of work I’ve been given.

Taking note of this obvious gap in performance got me thinking of weather as one of the environmental “spaces” to talk about in this column. If external circumstances affect how productively we work, weather is no doubt a crucial one.

You hear countless times that heat and light are supposedly conducive to positive energy whereas dark and cold foster negative emotions.

But in ways more complex than simply making someone sad or happy, the effects of weather on mood carry over into many other aspects of our functionality and thought processes.

Many people experience an elevation in mood when the sun comes up for reasons both psychological and biological: greater number of social opportunities, increased endorphin-releasing physical activity, decreased appetite for foods that leave you feeling yucky and bloated.

Furthermore, people sleep better when it’s sunny out.

“When the clouds go away, not only do you sleep more soundly, you are more likely to sleep longer,” said Colin Allen, who writes for Psychology Today.

Despite the positive effects, at times when our shift in work ethic becomes apparent, down goes the temporary mood lift. Bright light and glares can serve as distracters and deterrents to productivity.

Take my friends and me in the library the other day, attempting unsuccessfully at getting a head start for spring quarter. An intrusive glare shone through the window, throwing itself in our faces and demanding that we come outside and bask under its rays. Over the next hour, the cycle went something like this: read a few paragraphs, look up, gaze longingly out the window, make eye contact with one another, look outside again, then shake our heads and return to our books with determination that would be broken as soon as the cycle repeated itself five minutes later.

Sometimes darkness can be the most mind-clearing, even though you may not get much work done in it, or at least “work” in the tangible, traditional sense.

There are fewer distractions and fewer visual bombardments in the dark. With an inability to look outward on your surroundings, your mind is forced to turn inward. In this instance, darkness serves as an absence of stimuli; the great cleanser. At times I’ll lie in bed with the lights turned out listening to music, even if I’m not necessarily going to fall asleep.

Though I find darkness to be relaxing, there are few public spaces that glorify it. The planetarium is one of the few spots that does, which make trips to the Chabot Space and Science Center, nestled in the foresty hills of Oakland, into experiences that are at once meditative and educational.

Romantic eateries are all too aware of the effects that lighting has on ambiance. Not wanting bright lights to intrude on the potential lovebirds, employees keep the lighting at a low level that adds intrigue and mystique.

These next few months, get yourself into a study place without the glare; dim lights can be a friend to productivity. And buckle in for spring quarter. I have faith that you can shimmy under the sun without sacrificing your grades.

ELENI STEPHANIDES suggests you check out the planetarium in Sac (Discovery Museum Science and Space Center) for a mind-clearing, glare-free experience. She can be reached at estephanides@ucdavis.edu.

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