The Rumor: Rainy days can really get you down
Ever notice that as rain drops from the sky, your mood sometimes drops, too? If you feel meh on a dreary day, you might just chalk it up to coincidence. Sure, the Carpenters sang, “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” But can rain really ruin your mood?
The Verdict: Yep, rainy days really can get you down
If you feel down during a downpour, it’s not your imagination: Bad weather can indeed have a negative effect on your emotions. According to one study, nearly 9 percent of people fall into the “rain haters” category. This group feels angrier and less happy on days with more precipitation. Another study found that rain even increased the number of negative posts published on Facebook.
Tecsia Evans, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice in San Francisco (where it rains 67 days a year, on average), says, “When it gets dark and dreary out, some people definitely have more susceptibility to feeling lonely or down. It’s pretty common to see a change in mood — such as feeling sadness or lower self-esteem — when it’s rainy outside.”
If your mood tends to downshift with rainy weather, what can you do about it? Evans says that even if you’re tempted to shut off the lights and crawl into bed during a rainstorm, make the choice to turn on the lights instead. “There has been research that light can boost serotonin, which elevates the mood,” she says.
Julia Samton, MD, a psychiatrist at NYC’s Manhattan Neuropsychiatric who offers light therapy in her practice, takes that advice a step further. “I encourage people to really try to make sure they walk outside, even when it’s cold and rainy,” she says. “Even though it might not seem that light out, you’ll still get some exposure to UV rays, which can help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm and boost your mood.”
Cooped up inside because it’s absolutely raining cats and dogs? Engage in pleasurable activities that make you feel good, such as watching a cheerful movie, playing a game, doing arts and crafts or reading a book, suggests Evans.
When you’re feeling down, get up — literally. “I encourage people to exercise… that’s a big one,” says Samton. “It gives people vitality, can [contribute] to self-esteem, and increases endorphins that have a positive effect on the mood.” Work up a sweat to an exercise video on YouTube, do sit-ups or put on some music and start dancing.
Lastly, don’t isolate yourself in rainy weather, warns Evans. “When people are by themselves, it can feel like things are worse than they really are,” she notes. Connect with others instead of hiding from the rain alone indoors, and your disposition is sure to be sunnier — no matter how dark and gloomy the weather may be.