Can Rainy Days Really Get You Down?
By Gretchen Davis
Spring is upon us and that means we will be seeing a lot more rainy days. With the rain, you may experience certain mood changes. How many like the idea of “sleeping in” when waking up to the sounds of rain drops on the roof? Do you seem a little sad or depressed sans sunny days? The Carpenters sang a song about it… “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” But can rain really ruin your mood?
There are a number of studies done on how weather affects your mood. Some agree and some disagree. Bottom line: if you are one of those people that find yourself a little less chipper in rainy weather, you are not alone.
If you feel down during a downpour, it’s not your imagination: several studies agree that 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.”
Many people are so affected by the weather that it is classified as a disorder. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.
It is not just emotional…
Rain makes everything more difficult and though it can’t directly affect your hormones or energy (unless you are standing in the rain in which case you will further tax your energy as your body tries to heat and dry you up), it can affect your lifestyle in ways that are not conducive to a good mood. For instance the rain is likely to mean that you stay in more and socialize less. Thus if you are staying in you can often start to feel tired and low in terms of your mood, and furthermore the lack of stimulation can arouse feelings of ‘cabin fever’ and frustration.
Meanwhile rain means that you get wet when you walk to your car or to the train station which is frustrating in itself and again likely to cause illnesses. On top of that though it means that more people drive meaning that you will start the day again feeling angry and frustrated.
There are countless different ways in which the weather can affect mood then and this includes direct effects on mood and hormones, as well as more subtle second order impacts. Make sure that you stay warm and dry and that you make up for lower energy in your diet.
If you find yourself a little down when it rains, and maybe even 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,” one researcher 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.”
When you’re feeling down, get up — literally.
“I encourage people to exercise… that’s a big one,” says another researcher. “It gives people vitality, and can contribute to self-esteem, and increases endorphins that have a positive effect on the mood.” Speaking of endorphins…try working up a sweat. This releases endorphins and as Elle Woods says…”people who exercise don’t kill their husbands..They just don’t”.
Bottom line…if you feel blue because of the rain or dreary skies, your not alone, but don’t let it overcome you. Get up and get moving. Better yet, hit the gym. There you not only exercise and release endorphins to brighten you mood, you also engage in social activities which also plays a big part in mood elevation.
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