Lessons from the weather


Most people prefer sunshine to rain, but every kind of weather has its charm — we just have to learn to see it, as journalist Otje van der Lelij discovers.

Rain is frequently used as a metaphor for sadness and misery: raining on someone’s parade; it never rains but it pours. Thunder clouds in our language also never predict much good: something bad is like a dark cloud over our heads, or someone has a face like thunder.

Yet rain also has a certain appeal. It’s a cozy kind of weather that invites you to curl up on the couch with a book, without feeling like you have to go out. ‘It’s raining, so I’ll stay inside and cocoon.’ I also actually like thunder. It always looks ominous, the bright flashes across a gray, grumbling covering of cloud, but it also expresses something powerful and awe-inspiring. What can we learn from the weather? Or the seasons? And to what extent are we influenced by the weather?

Tropical island

“Weather has a very strong effect on our mood,” says Dutch meteorologist and climate expert Margot Ribberink. ‘‘Sunlight triggers the production of the happiness hormone serotonin and contributes to a properly functioning biological clock. Those who get out in the sun during the day sleep better at night. People often stay indoors on dark days, but I always say it’s best to go outside, even when it’s cloudy. You’ll benefit from the rays that reach you, even through the clouds. It makes you fitter and it gives your mood a boost.”

Humidity in the air also influences how we feel. At a waterfall, in a forest or by the sea, the air is more humid and that makes us feel calm and relaxed. We literally refresh ourselves by taking a walk after heavy rainfall.

Yet you don’t hear many people cheering when dark clouds pass overhead, or when we’re walking through the rain with runny noses and soaked clothing in the blustering wind. For those of us who don’t live in a country where the blue sky reappears after every rain shower, those are the moments when we wish we could emigrate to Australia or Morocco. But anyone who thinks that living in a place where the sun nearly always shines is necessarily better is making a classic error.

In his book The art of the good life, Swiss philosopher and business expert Rolf Dobelli writes that the more we concentrate on one aspect of our life (in this case the weather) the more influence we perceive that aspect to have on our life. And in doing so we inflate the influence of the weather on our well-being. We forget that we would also have stress on a sunny tropical island, would still have to meet deadlines and still worry about the future and our health. The weather certainly influences our mood, but emigrating because of the weather is not the solution, Dobelli writes.

  • Read the full story ‘Rain is just confetti from the sky’ in Issue 34.

Text Otje van der Lelij  Photography Mads Schmidt Rasmussen/Unsplash.com