The Extravagant Pleasure of Storms
There’s a biochemical reason for the happiness induced by tempests and storms.
Too terribly glorious, the spectacle of clouds,
split and pierced by white and blinding bolts.
- Charlotte Brontë
The body shudders at storms and hurricanes. But we also feel happy, and that’s one of the most interesting paradoxes of our relationship with the weather. How is it that something so powerfully destructive raises, in nearly all of us, a sense of pleasure and excitement? One of the answers that comes to light first is that a storm, violent and fickle as it is, awakens in us a being that we spend our lives lulling to sleep for it is one we don’t truly know. We sense that if we let it out – like someone letting out a deep cry – then we might not get it back in place. That very thought generates some excess energy. There’s something in storms that resembles poetry too much, a magnificent language that was never delivered to humankind and that therefore calls, almost irresistibly, the body to join in this vigorous orchestra. Biometeorology has yet another hypothesis for explaining the specific feeling of well-being upon seeing a storm up close, and it’s both fascinating and useful: the theory of ions.
Biometeorology is a branch of science that studies the impact of atmospheric processes on organisms and ecosystems. Among other things, it examines how the seasons and climate help to extend or curb human disease. For decades, a faction of biometeorologists has studied charged air particles, called ions, and how they can alter our psyches as they fly near. One of the most controversial explanations, one that’s gained plausibility , tells us that negative ions positively affect our mood, while positive ions can depress the mood.
Negative ions bear an extra electron. Positive ions are missing an electron. During storms, the composition of oxygen molecules is disrupted and positive ions will steal electrons to become negative. This happens not only in storms but in the crashing of waves, in waterfalls or even in sprinkler systems, and it explains the feeling of well-being generated by a morning shower.
The scientific jury is still out on how the biochemistry of this antidepressant works. There’s a “serotonin hypothesis,” which holds that positive ions create an excess of serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness. But an excess can cause a condition known as “serotonin irritation syndrome.” Positive ions, according to the authors of the study, are retained in the serotonin floating in the bloodstream. Negative ions revert the imbalance by starting a neurotransmitter in nitrogen molecules that returns serotonin levels in the blood to their optimum levels.
Another serious study on the subject was released by Doctor of Clinical Psychology, Michael Terman. Terman argues that when we breathe negative ions, a part of the nose called Jacobson’s organ, and which detects pheromones, starts to send positive messages to the brain. According to Terman, witnessing rainstorms, or even bathing for 30 minutes after waking, can have the same antidepressant effects that’ve been measured in clinical trials with negative ion generators.
There are still lots of pending studies to decipher exactly the optimum amount of negative ions needed to significantly raise our spirits. But it might suffice to open the windows or go for a walk after a storm, as there are no side effects. The calm after the storm may just be the best calm yet.
1. Seb Janiak
2. Camila Massu
When ancient rituals became religion
The emergence of religions irreversibly changed the history of humanity. It’s therefore essential to ask when and how did ancient peoples’ rituals become organized systems of thought, each with their
Seven ancient maps of the Americas
A map is not the territory. —Alfred Korzybski Maps are never merely maps. They’re human projections, metaphors in which we find both the geographical and the imaginary. The cases of ghost islands
An artist crochets a perfect skeleton and internal organs
Shanell Papp is a skilled textile and crochet artist. She spent four long months crocheting a life-size skeleton in wool. She then filled it in with the organs of the human body in an act as patient
A musical tribute to maps
A sequence of sounds, rhythms, melodies and silences: music is a most primitive art, the most essential, and the most powerful of all languages. Its capacity is not limited to the (hardly trivial)
The enchantment of 17th-century optics
The sense of sight is perhaps one the imagination’s most prolific masters. That is why humankind has been fascinated and bewitched by optics and their possibilities for centuries. Like the heart, the
Would you found your own micro-nation? These eccentric examples show how easy it can be
Founding a country is, in some ways, a simple task. It is enough to manifest its existence and the motives for creating a new political entity. At least that is what has been demonstrated by the
Wondrous crossings: the galaxy caves of New Zealand
Often, the most extraordinary phenomena are “jealous of themselves” ––and they happen where the human eye cannot enjoy them. However, they can be discovered, and when we do find them we experience a
Think you have strange reading habits? Wait until you've seen how Mcluhan reads
We often forget or neglect to think about the infinite circumstances that are condensed in the acts that we consider habitual. Using a fork to eat, for example, or walking down the street and being
The sky is calling us, a love letter to the cosmos (video)
We once dreamt of open sails and Open seas We once dreamt of new frontiers and New lands Are we still a brave people? We must not forget that the very stars we see nowadays are the same stars and
The sister you always wanted (but made into a crystal chandelier)
Lucas Maassen always wanted to have a sister. And after 36 years he finally procured one, except, as strange as it may sound, in the shape of a chandelier. Maassen, a Dutch designer, asked the