February is always a pretty grim month, while March and April are generally characterised by erratic weather and showers. Day after day of drizzle can get you down, disrupting fitness regimes and hampering social plans.
By staying indoors on those wet afternoons, however, we may actually be missing a trick. Rainy days offer the potential for some remarkable wellbeing perks that you wouldn’t get the chance to experience if every day was sunny. The next time you hear the pitter-patter of raindrops on your window pane, resist the urge to hole up indoors. Instead, grab your mac for a spot of rain-walking. These are all the mood-boosting benefits you can expect to reap.
The smell of rain (petrichor) has a calming effect
Have you ever noticed the smell of rain? Or rather, the smell of the ground and air when it is raining? If not, the next time you’re out in a downpour take a deep breath. That sweet, fresh, soothing scent is called petrichor, and it is seriously good for the soul.
This evocative fragrance is created when a blend of compounds from plant oils, accumulated in soil and rocks, are mixed and released though moisture droplets into the air. Think of it like rainy day aromatherapy. As well as the benefits to be had from the airborne plant oils themselves (depending on what you have around you), petrichor provides calming and mood-boosting properties. This is thought to stem from a cultural imprint, derived from our ancestors who would have found food and water more plentiful than in times of rain than drought. Cue, happy thoughts.
Walking in the rain can help shift perspective
If you take a moment to become present to your surroundings in the rain (rather than shuffling along, head-bowed to the nearest shelter), you’ll be astounded by what you see. The world becomes a different place when shrouded by rainfall; diffuse in a unique light, everything around changing in shape, colour and sound.
You may even encounter natural splendours reserved only for those who venture out in wet weather: steam rising from the ground, yellow storm light, flowers closing their petals up until the sun emerges again and more.
As you delight in this different view of the world, you can take this as inspiration to shift perspective in other areas of your life too. A little shake up of how you see things is sometimes all you need to make positive progress.
The air is cleaner when it rains
If you’re hoping to get some fresh air, there’s no better time to go for a walk than when it’s raining. As a raindrop falls through the atmosphere, a natural phenomenon occurs whereby the droplet attracts tens to hundreds of air pollutants particles such as soot, sulphates and other organic particles. This process does a remarkable job of cleaning the air around us.
Atmospheric chemists at MIT published a 2015 study in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry And Physics that demonstrated just how effective rain is at reducing air pollution. Dan Cziczo, the Victor P Starr career development professor of atmospheric chemistry says these results may be extrapolated to predict rain’s potential to help address pressing issues such as air quality and human health, as well as the effect of clouds on climate.
Rain-walking aids in release of control and finding acceptance
There are many things in life that lie beyond our control, yet sometimes it can be a struggle to let go and truly be with what is. From grieving a lost loved one, to feeling stressed about how a job interview went there are times when releasing control and accepting the way of the world is the best thing you can do, and amazingly, taking a walk in the rain can really help with that.
Rain is easy to take for granted. It’s even easy to think of it as a negative thing. But in reality, it is one of our universe’s most spectacular elements. It is incredibly powerful. And, as with much of life, we have absolutely no control over it – and that’s OK. In fact, that’s wonderful.
How to take a mindful rain-walk
The next time you’re faced with a drizzly day, don’t feel glum. Instead, take the opportunity to practise mindful rain-walking and reap the plentiful benefits. But how do you step out into the rain with a positive outlook and wellbeing in mind? It all comes down to being truly present in the moment.
- Choosing to become fully present always begins with breathing, so bringing your awareness to your breath is the first step. Mouth-breathing triggers a subtle anxiety response which is very distracting, but deliberate and focused breath works wonders for clearing the mind. Before you step outside take a series of deep, steady inhales and exhales through your nose, releasing slowly and focusing wholly on the process at hand.
- As you walk into the rain, continue this conscious breathing and work on letting go of distracting thoughts. Don’t try to ignore or suppress them; instead, listen, acknowledge and then deliberately let them pass. As you let stress-filled thoughts slip away, always return to your breath and what you are doing right there, in the moment.
- Now, extend your presence to the new, wet world around you. Notice the smell of petrichor and observe how it effects your mood. Really look at your surroundings and take in the unique qualities rain brings to everything. Feel the droplets on your skin and listen to the meditative sound. Try to find place in your mind and body where you are accepting of everything around you, internally and externally, yet you cling to nothing. Simply exist, let go and be with the rain.
- When you’re ready to go back inside, allow yourself a little time to ease back into normality. Take a hot shower, enjoy a cup of tea or simply sit quietly in thought for a short while in a warm room. Reflect on your new experience of rainfall and the positive impact it has had on your day.
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