If you're feeling grumpy, blame it on the lack of sunshine

February 27, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Did you also want to rip out Paula Zahn's lungs because she was in France where people ski on sun-washed slopes?

Do you want to spit at the dingy snow because it could only improve it? Do you want to take a nap because all that ripping and spitting is more than you can handle right now?

We're happy -- well, as happy as we can be -- to report that it's not just us. Maybe 35 million Americans are experiencing some grumpiness because the sun is cooperating, but the sky isn't. In fact, it's grayer than normal this year, and folks like Rick Orlowski are feeling it.

Mr. Orlowski calls January to March "the high-grump" season. His litany of woe includes, but is not limited to: the lack of holidays; the mere fact of his birthday; the rain; the bad business; the grayness.

"I went to California and, as you know, they have mudslides there, and even that looked good," says the 28-year-old. "At least it was warm. At least I went out."

Going outside is something he can't manage. Mr. Orlowski says these days he goes home, hits the couch, dons a blanket, has pizza delivered and watches reruns because "I was over the Olympics after the first three nights."

Explains color consultant Leatrice Eiseman: As children we were told we couldn't play in weather this color, we couldn't picnic in it and we couldn't change it.

No wonder we can't stand it.

Gray is used, for example, in museums so that it doesn't interfere with the colors that are busy being art. It's not used in restaurants because restaurant owners don't want customers' appetites to go the way of their moods. It isn't used in hospitals, either, because doctors say it tends to make patients look more sick than they are.

And if you feel grumpy now, it may not be your fault. You might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

Maybe up to 10 million of us have it bad enough that we need help. Another 25 million may suffer from symptoms that don't require medical attention but affect us all the same. SAD causes lethargy, depression, even thoughts of suicide. It can make us crave carbohydrates. It can limit our natural resilience to stress.

It comes down to light deprivation. Simply put, we're animals with clocks that the sun winds. When we lose contact with light, our bodies sometimes grope to get back into rhythm, to know when to be alert and when to rest.

What all this means to you is clear. You're a victim of weather that's not your fault and of a shade of gray you didn't choose. You can go home tonight with a clear conscience.

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