How To Get Happy When Skies Are Gray


Fields of rapeseed on a cloudy in France (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Today in Pittsburgh it’s “cloudy” but a better description would be gloomy. Gray skies are depressing. How can we cope? Let’s look at yellow.

In an ongoing international survey (6,625 people in 55 countries to date) participants are asked, “What emotions do colors represent?” The data shows that most people say yellow is joyful but this isn’t true worldwide. It’s very joyful in the United States, exceptionally joyful in Finland, but in desert regions it’s not.

Researchers led by Domicele Jonauskaite at University of Lausanne, wondered if the attitude toward yellow was cultural or environmental: “What if people’s physical surroundings affect their feelings about certain colors?” They mapped the data here. (Darkest means the greatest yellow-joy; see Finland, Iceland, New Zealand.)

Likelihood of yellow-joy association (map from Science Direct, The Sun Is No Fun Without Rain)

They found that environment and cloud cover matter. The sun is not your friend in hot, dry, cloudless places. The study aptly named itself, “The sun is no fun without rain.”

Finland loves yellow. I think I know why. The first time I saw an intense field of yellow, like the one shown at top, was in Finland. I made my friends stop the car. So yellow! So happy! What is this plant? Rapeseed!

Rapeseed (Brassica napus) is the crop that makes canola oil.

Rapeseed in bloom (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

We don’t grow rapeseed in Pittsburgh, but I found a joyful yellow patch of chrysanthemums at the corner of Forbes Avenue and South Bouquet Street.

Go find some yellow and get happy.

(rapeseed photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals. Chrysanthemums by Kate St. John)