Does snow melt your heart?

While this week’s wintry weather may have brought chaos to some, for others the sight of snow evokes pure joy. Dr Tracey Platt, a research psychologist at the University of Wolverhampton who focuses on positive emotions, explores why:

We all like to feel positive emotions. If negative emotions are there to remove us from threat, like anger helps us fight or run away, or disgust stops us eating rotten food; the positive emotions make us want to stay, to do things for longer, and to keep experiencing that feeling.

Both the individual element of snowflakes, and together as snow, tap into many of the different facets of joy that we can experience.

This is why many people love the snow so much; it overwhelms us with lots of different pleasures, covering all the senses (tactile, olfactory, auditory, visual and gustatory).

If we touch it, we can experience an opponent process, so our senses go very cold, which makes us feel very warm afterwards. It can also tickle as it lands and melts on you. These are all tactile pleasures.

Calm

Everything goes calm and still when there is a blanket of snow, an auditory respite from our noise filled world. Although tasteless, who has not allowed a snowflake to fall on their tongue and melt away? This is an enjoyable gustatory sensation.

Visually the unique snowflake is amazingly beautiful, which evokes other positive emotions of wonder or awe. A blanket of snow makes everything look pretty, and although rather dichotomous in nature, the cold snow often comes with the bright blue sky and sunshine which is of course is a visual pleasure. The olfactory pleasure is the clean freshness that snow brings.

So, at our basic sensory pleasures, snow fills all. But snow, is also the gift that keeps on giving.

Snow is fun and exciting. It amuses us. We can play with it, throw it without hurting, and make snow angels and snowmen. If we make them big enough, we can feel the pride of achieving something.

Even when it is over, and we go inside, we are grateful for the warmth, gratitude is a powerful positive emotion. However, snow is transient, so we are always left with the desire for its return.

  • Dr Tracey Platt is a psychology lecturer within the University's Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing.

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