Surprisingly, happiness lies in a blast of adverse weather
TODAY WAS THE SORT of January day we all dread – cold and grey, with north winds driving tiny needles of sleety rain hard into your face.
We don’t have the world’s harshest weather here in the north temperate zone but – trust me – today was horrible enough.
When you threw in the post-Christmas comedown, worrying rates of Covid infections, and the Government announcing another six-weeks of lockdown, it added up to the perfect excuse for just sitting around and feeling fed up.
Which is precisely why I went outside…
It’s often counterintuitive to tell yourself that you should pull your running shoes on and get out there – not least when 20 minutes of ‘out there’ will cost you most of the feeling in your hands and feet.
But I’ve learned over the years to trust this instinct to brave the elements.
I’ve seen often enough that – despite my natural inclination to sink down further under the duvet with a Twix – happiness lies in a good blast of adverse weather.
More precisely, happiness lies at the other end of a good blast of adverse weather…
After a mile, I’d get my breath and everything would be better”
Because, when I took my coat off and started to do laps of the park, my body still needed a whole lot of convincing that I was doing the right thing.
My creaky knees needed persuading to get going at all, but I was also shivering unpleasantly under my thin hoody and T-shirt, and had to remind myself that soon I’d be sweating despite the cold.
After a mile, I’d get my breath and everything would be better… After two or three miles, everything would be transformed…
And – Lo! So it proved. Within a few minutes, sweat was pouring into my eyes and I needed to peel the gloves off my suddenly overheating hands.
I ran four and a half miles – the most I’ve managed since I got injured last year – and then the cold moved in again. It chilled me down so rapidly that, post-stretch, my fingers could barely unlock my bike.
But I went home feeling twice the man I had before.
That brief blast of hardship had flipped my mood – like the judo throws I practised as a kid”
Somehow, life – my super-humdrum, bleak January life – seemed brighter and infinitely more joyous: I was ravenous for breakfast. I was desperate for a hot shower and some clean, dry clothes.
All at once, I felt grateful for central heating, washing machines, and other forms of civilisation that I usually take for granted.
That brief blast of hardship had flipped my mood – like the judo throws I practised when I was a kid.
In Judo, the skill lies in using your opponent’s own heaviness against them – causing them to overbalance and topple to the floor.
And what could be heavier – psychologically speaking – than a dull, return-to-reality January day, when the release of Spring and a world without coronavirus both seem unbearably far away?
But, if we can find ways to flip even crushing days like today, perhaps there’s hope for us yet.