When people complain about bad weather, they are often referring to rain. There are many reasons to love rain though - from rainy day fashion to the mood-boosting effects of negative ions - so maybe it's time to look at rain in a different way.
1. Rain is vital.
It's obvious, but without rain all the beautiful, living things that sustain and delight us would wither and die. The vegetables we eat, the trees in our parks and the flowers in our gardens all need rain as well as sunlight in order to grow and thrive. Without it, both nature and agriculture would suffer.
Rainwater is also a completely free resource which you can harvest with rain barrels or buckets for your houseplants, garden or allotment. You will enjoy some savings and your plants will appreciate the naturally soft water that is free from an excess of minerals as well as chemicals such as chlorine.
2. Rain is beautiful.
There is a special kind of beauty in rainy days - think of waterdrops on spiderwebs and reflections on the surface of puddles. Rain changes the appearance of the environment, too. The colours of some objects, like stones, appear deeper and more vibrant when they're wet, because light behaves differently when it reflects off a wet surface as opposed to a dry, rough surface. And, of course, we only get to see rainbows after rain! For photographers, rainy days can offer many opportunities to take unusual and creative photos, and artists can be equally inspired.
3. It smells good after rain.
That pleasant, fresh scent of rain is most intense after a dry spell. The Australian chemists Isabel Bear and R.G. Thomas studied its components in the 1960s and coined the word petrichor to describe it.
There are several sources of the distinct smell of rain. One of them is the oily plant secretions that accumulate in soil during dry weather. A rainstorm releases compounds from these oils into the air. Once airborne, the compounds mix with a chemical called geosmin which is produced alongside bacterial spores by Actinomycetes, a group of soil-dwelling bacteria. This smell is described as deep and earthy.
Another possible component of the smell is ozone, particularly after a thunderstorm. Lightning can cause oxygen and nitrogen molecules to split and recombine as nitric oxide in the atmosphere, which can then go onto produce ozone through interaction with other chemicals. The smell of ozone is sharp and 'clean' - similar to that of chlorine.
Scientists have hypothesised that we find the smell of rain so pleasant because of its association with new growth and the abundance of food. Whether that's true or not, the smell of rain is another reason to appreciate a good downpour.
4. Rain is the perfect excuse to stay in.
Outdoor adventures and activities are great fun, but sometimes you just want to enjoy some quiet, simple things instead. If all you want is some peaceful time with a cup of tea and to stay in to read, paint, knit, bake, watch films or play games, rainy days are perfect for it. Or take some time for deeply relaxing activities, such as yoga and meditation, which are great tools for boosting well-being. Rainy days can also be a good opportunity to get on with all those tasks that you never seem to get around to, like decluttering the drawers or mending clothes. Remember to savour the feeling when you tick them off your list! So what if it's grey and wet outside again - put on some beautiful music (I love Bon Iver and Sophie Zelmani on rainy days) and enjoy the great indoors.
5. Rain is the perfect excuse to have childish fun.
On the other hand, having some quiet time might be the last thing you want - even when it's raining. There's no reason not to run outside and go silly if you feel like it. When did you last splash in a great, big puddle? If you have children (or can borrow some from a friend), they'll gladly join you - and you won't even attract any strange looks from passersby. Simply watching children enjoying rain (from a safe distance) can put a smile on your face and remind you to look for the bright side of everything.
6. You can show off your unique fashion sense in the rain
My 4-year-old daughter used to say that she doesn't like rain. Then she was given a new umbrella - a pink princess umbrella - and couldn't wait for the next rainy day. She even cried once when the rain suddenly stopped while we were outside. Bigger fashionistas can also show off their unique sense of style with their choice of rainwear. A gorgeous umbrella, a beautiful raincoat or a colourful pair of wellies can make a big difference to how you feel when you walk out into the rain.
On the other hand, maybe you couldn't care less about fashion - rain is also your friend! It's totally acceptable to wear the most practical clothes that you can find and not care at all about looking good when it's pouring it down. My highest priority (unlike my daughter's) is staying warm and dry when we're out in the rain.
7. Rain cleans.
Air feels fresher after a rain, and it's not just the smell that creates the sensation. Pollution builds up during the day due to traffic and industrial activities, and while large particles settle back down on the ground by themselves, smaller particles can remain suspended in the air for days, or even months. Rain, however, can remove some of those particles from the atmosphere. Dust, smoke and various other airborne pollutant particles act as nuclei around which rain droplets form. And when the rain falls to the ground, it gathers more air pollutants with it.
In China the government is planning to utilise the air improving qualities of rain by creating artificial rain to tackle the serious smog problem in the country. Also, the increased global rainfall caused by climate warming seems to have its silver lining, at least in the Arctic. More rain globally means that more pollution is removed from the air before it reaches the polar region, thus potentially slowing down the warming of the Arctic atmosphere. Rain sometimes brings relief for allergy sufferers as well by temporarily reducing the pollen count in the air. And car owners can enjoy the free cleaning service that rainfall provides!
8. Rain could help you sleep better.
Many people find the sound of rain soothing and enjoy falling asleep listening to it. Rain - heavy rain in particular - acts as natural white noise, comprising a broad range of sound frequencies. White noise has been shown to relax and induce sleep and is also helpful in blocking sudden noises that may otherwise disrupt sleep. White noise can be especially helpful for people who have trouble falling asleep because of tinnitus by masking the ringing in the ears. Rain can also make the sleeping environment cooler and darker, which are other factors that promote sound sleep.
9. Rain may improve your mood.
Rain is often associated with feeling down, but it can also have the opposite effect. The secret is in the negative ions (molecules with a negative charge). They are released into the air by the Lenard effect (also known as the waterfall effect) when water splashes and waterdrops break up, causing a separation of electric charges. Negative ions have a positive effect on mood and the level of alertness through an increased flow of oxygen into the brain - the reason why thunderstorms feel so invigorating. As a bonus, negative ions can also contribute to a better air quality. In order to benefit from a free dose of negative ions, be sure to open your window to let them in or take a brisk walk in the rain!
10. Rain provides contrast.
If you're one of those people who simply doesn't enjoy rain at all, there is still some value in it. Studies show that having unwanted experiences makes us value all the good things in life a lot more, which in turn contributes to long-term happiness. And it's the same with rain for people who don't like it. Without the variation in weather and the contrast it provides, we couldn't even have any preferences. Sunshine feels so much sweeter when those bright, warm rays break through the clouds after several days of constant rain.