Bad weather sometimes gets a bad rep, but here’s why you should consider embracing it
Windows shut in unison around me as black clouds roll overhead. Everyone is battening down the hatches, while I tie my shoelaces. It’s starting to rain, and I couldn’t be happier.
Like a dog scrabbling at the door after hearing the word ‘walk’, I’m desperate to get out. To feel the energising, ice cold droplets on my face; the wind in my hair, and the warmth of my coat enveloping me like a hug. I’ve never felt more at peace.
Everyone is wishing for summer, while I say spring has never made me feel more alive.
There’s no denying that the rain gets a bad rep. In books and films, a sea of dark clouds and whistling windows brings a sense of foreboding – a sure sign that trouble is brewing. We associate bad weather with bad things. And for years, I believed it.
Despite having a bright pink raincoat that I love, and fleece-lined wellies decorated with corgis, until recently, I always seemed to avoid going out in the rain. I stopped associating it with child-like freedom, cancelling plans as soon as I saw those dark clouds rumble in – deciding that my day had been ruined. I felt miserable, down, sad.
“The weather can impact our emotions without us realising it,” Dr Elena Touroni, consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, tells me. “When it’s rainy and dreary outside, it’s more common for people to feel down, lonely, or sad. On the flip side, the sun is connected to more positive emotions.”
Since we tend to get less vitamin D – the so-called ‘sunshine vitamin’ – in the winter months, it can play havoc with our brain’s release of mood-boosting hormones, dopamine and serotonin.
“It can be tempting to stay indoors in the winter months, but it’s important to exercise (which releases feel-good hormones) and get outside so that we get as much light as possible,” Dr Touroni says. “It’s important that we get rid of this idea of ‘good’ weather and ‘bad’ weather, especially living in the UK where we tend to get a lot of rain and overcast days.”
Well, to me now, there’s no such thing as ‘bad’ weather days, not any more. This year, I’ve made it a resolution to embrace bad weather, not avoid it. To walk, run, dance, and end up like a drowned rat in the rain – and I’ve never felt more alive.
“When the weather is bad, it’s easy to feel unmotivated, lethargic and disconnected from everything and everyone,” Catherine Lauris, community manager at Merrell Hiking Club – a women-centric digital platform and community – tells me. “It makes you want to stay indoors and stay cosy. However, there are several benefits associated with getting outdoors and embracing the bad weather that make it worth it.”
Changing my perspective on the rain has completely changed my mindset, and I’ve definitely benefited from it. I find myself laughing with exhilaration as I walk in the rain, feeling like a child dancing in and out of puddles again, giggling. And, it turns out, it’s good for you to feel this way, too.
“One of the most enjoyable and uplifting experiences in the rain is dancing. That’s right, dancing in the rain!” John Landry, registered respiratory therapist and the founder of Respiratory Therapy Zone, explains. “This simple act has been shown to improve our mood and overall happiness.
“Raindrops provide a natural massage on our skin, the sound of the rain creates a peaceful background noise, and the act of moving our bodies releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone. Additionally, exposure to negative ions in the air created by rain has been linked to reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.”
John also notes that it “gives us a chance to enjoy the beauty of our natural surroundings”, and I agree. When I take a walk in the rain, once busy parks are now empty. Peaceful. Serene. Allowing me a moment to appreciate the beauty of nature, without distractions.
According to research from the Mental Health Foundation, spending time in nature can improve mood, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and lower stress levels. The study also revealed that 65% of people experience positive emotions like joy, wonder, and excitement while being outside – with 44% admitting that being close to nature made them less worried or anxious.
It’s something I’ve definitely noticed – a brisk walk in the cold, damp Edinburgh weather can sometimes leave me feeling ecstatic – and more aware of my mortality, with a greater appreciation for life. It refreshes me in the midst of a tough day, making me feel invigorated and sharper, swapping that sluggish at-desk feeling for a miraculously clearer mind.
“Being out in the rain can help to bring awareness to a fuller range of sensations – rather than just ‘zoning out’ as you move, you can focus on different feelings, lights, shapes, and sounds,” Eloise Skinner, meditation, mindfulness, yoga and breathwork instructor, shares.
And when you return indoors, if anything, it makes you appreciate home comforts a little more. The feeling of swapping damp clothes for your favourite PJs and cosy slippers; the warm feeling in your belly of that first sip of tea. The embrace of a loved one, or the feeling of your pet’s fur through your fingers.
I can’t quite explain it, but when I unsheath my bright pink raincoat after a walk, I shed my worries with it. The stresses and niggles of the week disperse, leaving me recharged.
“It’s so important to have downtime and a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life,” Catherine Lauris says. “It’s nice to go back to basics and appreciate the beauty of the world around us. It is also great for clearing your head, and putting things into perspective.
“When I go hiking in the mountains, it makes me appreciate how small and insignificant some of my worries are. Being outdoors provides me with a complete escape and is a great way to reset.”
She also notes how fresh air and nature are so good for the mind, body and soul. So, how can we make the most of it? And change our mindset towards the rain, to enjoy the moment, rather than wishing for sunnier climes?
“Try to make the best out of the situation,” Catherine advises. “Make your walk or hike fun, invite your friends, wrap up in several layers so you are shielded from the cold, and take your favourite snacks and a flask of something hot to keep you warm. Even a 30-minute walk will leave you feeling refreshed and promote a positive headspace.”
Dr Touroni emphasises the importance of feeling free and unleashing your inner child. She says, “Try to connect with how you felt as a child, playing in the rain and splashing about in puddles. Remind yourself that rain is vital to our existence – without it, we wouldn’t be here.”
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to dig out the wellies, and come outside.