“Sunshine dulls the mind to risk and thoughtfulness.”
The brilliant and indefatigable Maria Popova of Brain Pickings shared why cloudy days help us think more clearly. She also shares other cloud-inspired articles here and here.
I have my own anecdotal experience of clear skies vs. cloudy skies, nothing to do with cognitive improvement, or maybe it is, but very much to do with a sense of comfort and safety. In a lengthy period of slow recovery from pneumonia resulting in chronic respiratory infections and a diagnosis of chronic fatigue, I found that an overcast sky gave me a feeling of being enfolded, wrapped in what seemed a vast security blanket. I only noticed this when blue skies appeared, wide open, without limit, infinite, and how exposed and unsafe I felt.
How long it took to shake this dread of unobscured blue skies I can't recall, possibly a couple years. It was a sense of there being nothing between me and everything, between me and distant planets, the unknown reaches of space, the void. Cloudy brought comfort, as though someone had wisely thought to close the wide-open doors.
In thinking of this some twenty years after the fact, gray skies felt like permission to huddle and hunker, to go slowly, really, to hide. With clear, open skies came a feeling of expectation for which I wasn't ready. I still needed the cave, the small space in which I could touch all the walls. A sky that went on forever was too frightening. I remembered the nurse showing me how to wrap my newborn son tightly in his flannel blanket, saying babies felt unsafe when their limbs were allowed to wave about. For a time, knowing those blue skies reached into an unrestricted universe was more than I could bear.
I have come to love watching the sky from my second-floor windows, its drifting clouds, thick muffling of fog or, as today, limitlessness. Los Angeles is no place for a blue-sky phobia.