Experts explain why we get so gloomy when the sun disappears.
Spectators heading to Wimbledon this week would do well to pack a brolly, with warnings of heavy rainfall expected over the hallowed courts. The annual tennis tournament isn’t the only event affected by unseasonable weather recently – and if the lack of sun has put you in a gloomy mood, you’re not alone.
“Research that was conducted in San Francisco – where it reportedly rains 67% of the year – suggests people do report feeling down, lonely and have lower self esteem,” says psychologist Dr Audrey Tang, author of The Leader’s Guide to Resilience. “There are practical reasons as to why this affects our psychology, because if it’s raining a lot, we don’t see people quite so much.”
This spring has seen worse weather compared to last year, plus the effects of lockdown restrictions taking their toll.
“The pandemic has heightened everything,” says Janine Parry, life coach and founder of JSP Training and Consultancy. “Last year, when we were in the midst of lockdown, the weather was beautiful from April. Now, we’re desperate to get out, desperate to have some type of normality – we’ve been starved of that for 15 months.”
And it’s not necessarily depression that can result from grey days, Tang says: “When it rains a lot, it can be associated with rises in aggression. It may well be because we’ve been cooped up for so long, and we’re building up this energy. We haven’t been able to go out for a run, we haven’t been able to do the usual forms of healthy expression.”
So, what should you do if you’re feeling low right now? “We can choose to do things that will make our lives happier,” says Tang. “We cannot control the weather, but we can control ourselves.”
Don’t fall victim to FOMO
If you have to cancel or change plans because of wet weather, it’s easy to feel hard done by and get a kind of FOMO (fear of missing out).
“We believe that had it been better [weather], we might have had more fun,” says Tang. “We miss or mourn something we haven’t necessarily had, which is worth recognising. There’s no guarantee that any day, any event would have been absolutely perfect had it gone ahead as planned.”
Go out anyway
You don’t always have to ‘take a rain check’ when grey clouds loom, says Parry: “Sometimes, it’s a case of ‘just do it’. If it’s dull day, it may not be raining, so get the wellies, get your anoraks on, pack a picnic and just get out there. The most important thing is to make the most of the daylight, even if it’s not sunny, and make it an adventure.”
Similarly, while that picnic or barbecue might not be possible in torrential rain, you can catch up with friends or family indoors, while still following lockdown rules.
Tang suggests: “Maybe instead you can find something to do in each other’s houses, and be able to sit and have that coffee and cake or leisurely lunch.”
Is working from home giving you cabin fever? “Change your location in the house – that can make a huge difference,” says Tang, who does something called a ‘gratitude stretch’ throughout the day, which can benefit both your physical and mental health.
“I simply stretch my arms and think of one thing I’m looking forward to doing today, then stretch my legs and think of one person I love having in my life. It keeps you focused on the good stuff.”
Parry recommends little healthy treats throughout the day when working from home: “Whether it’s having a really nice lunch, getting out into the garden, or taking the dog around the block for 10 minutes – you’ve got to break your day up. Things like candles or scents, and having some background music when you’re working, can help.”
Board games are a typical rainy-day activity, but Tang says to avoid things like Monopoly, that might end up testing your temper more than soothing it.
“Play cooperative board games. I’m talking about games like Carcassonne, there’s a game called Pandemic, believe it or not, there’s one called Betrayal At House On The Hill. They’re games where you have to work together as a team, in order to solve that problem – that’s a great way to do a team bonding activity.”