The Psychology of Rain: Why You Feel Like Crap and What You Can Do About it
Updated: Jul 17
We have had quite interesting weather this summer. Although June-uary and Jul-cember have been the ideal forecast for discouraging forest fires and encouraging social distancing. It has not been stellar for many of our moods.
Have you noticed lately that you feel more sluggish, headachey, depressed, or like, well, crap? You are not alone!
Sure, most of us have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder. And yes, it's common for moods to dip in dreary November. But does the rain on a muggy summer's day actually affect our mood?
Yup. And it's actually backed up by science. Here are three reasons why the recent weather forecast is making you feel like crap, and what you can do about it.
1. Rest begets rest: Crappy weather does not motivate us to move. If you wake up and spend the whole day binging on Netflix, you will feel worse. Rest begets rest. "Lethargic" activities will keep you marinating in that state because dreary weather creates a vicious cycle of lethargy. We don't want to move, so we don't, and we continue to feel like crap.
2. Rain INCREASES melatonin: When we expose ourselves to sunlight our pineal gland releases LESS melatonin. Melatonin is one of the hormones that promote sleep. The more sunlight, the LESS sleepy we feel. So on a rainy day, our melatonin levels INCREASE and we are likely to feel MORE lethargic.
3. Rain DECREASES serotonin: During bleak days our brain produces less serotonin. It's the opposite when it's sunny. The sun pumps 'em up. Seratonin is known as the "happy chemical" because it promotes contentment and cheerfulness. So when it's crappy outside, the lack of serotonin can cause some of us to feel crappy inside.
So what can you do when you feel like crap because it's crappy outside? Here are 5 little "helpers":
1. Get moving: Sure, the dismal and desolate weather outside does not inspire movement. But remember, rest begets rest. To increase your body's natural endorphins, get moving. It doesn't matter how small or big, just do....something! Get off the couch and bust out 20 jumping jacks, blast your favorite song and freestyle dance, or pace back and forth before you make a cup of tea. It's the accumulation of the little things that count. And keep in the back of your mind, it's important to move for MY mood. Let this motto be a nudge of motivation.
2. Notice and name your emotions: Being able to accurately identify and label your emotions is key. Emotions need to move and they seek expression. If they don't move they become stuck. When you accurately label how you are feeling, an emotional release happens in the body and helps the emotions move. Often the sadness, frustration, or feelings of total crap, will feel slightly less intense.
3. Express your emotions: If you have more time, you could try expressing your feelings on paper. Two ways to do this are journaling and making art. Journal uninhibited and freely—don't edit or criticize what you write. Just let the thoughts come and your mind and emotions say as they wish. There is something so sacred about this space— just you, your thoughts, your feelings, and the pen to the paper. You may be surprised by what is revealed to you.
Art is also a creative and therapeutic way to express yourself. Art can be a playful medium that facilitates self-exploration and understanding. This may be an opportunity to express feelings and thoughts that were otherwise difficult to articulate. Grab a piece of paper and whatever supplies you have on hand— a pen, crayons, felts, acrylics— anything will do! Again, don't edit or criticize your work. Create a safe space to allow anything to come up. You may be surprised how cathartic this process is.
4. Connect: Connection is like a balm on chapped skin. When we are feeling down or lethargic (especially on a rainy day) sometimes we just want to withdraw from the world and hide. But deep down we all have a hunger for connection and it is so necessary for our emotional health. Reaching out to a friend or loved one might help perk your spirits and be the balm your soul needs right now.
5. Emotionally prepare yourself: Just like how an athlete preps their mind before game day, you may need to prep yours for a rainy day. Have you ever had a situation where you went into it mentally prepared? Where you went over what you were going to say in your head first and visualized the encounter? Did you find you were less reactive and more "in control"? If you prep your mind for the inevitable—"I'm probably going to feel like crap because the weather sucks, so here is my game plan"—then you can enter the day less blind-sighted, and armed with your little "helpers".
Rain can make us feel like crap! Period. The next time you feel sluggish, headachey, depressed, and crappy....check the weather! Some of us have moods that are dependent on the forecast. Being emotionally prepared for a rainy day is just as important as gumboots and umbrellas. With this new knowledge in hand, you'll be more equipped to fight off "rain fatigue" and brighten your own internal sunshine.
What "helpers" do you use to help your mood on a rainy day?