Weather is known to be the go-to conversational topic when one doesn’t know what to talk about. However, I’m not writing about weather for lack of better options, but rather because one question has genuinely got me curious these past few days: Why do I like rainy weather? And does it have the same effect on other people, too?
First of all, I have to admit I only like rainy weather when I’m sitting inside and get to observe the people outside running for their lives because they forgot to take an umbrella with them (I swear I’m not a bad person), or when I conveniently get to watch the raindrops run down the windows of the train compartment or car I’m sitting in.
But that’s not what’s important. Here’s what I’m trying to get at: It has been raining for a couple of days in Switzerland and the prognosis is that it will keep raining for another four or five days. I’ve got exams coming up next week and I’ve noticed that the rainy weather has somehow enhanced my productivity and focus. You might think “well, duh, that’s because you can’t go outside”, but no – I like staying inside, even when it’s sunny. I’ve also been regularly using Rainymood for background noise while reading or writing and it helps me a lot with concentration. Thus, yesterday, I thought to myself: There has to be more to this! I started trying to come up with reasons of my own, but then I remembered that there’s that wonderful thing called research. However, I quickly dismissed the thought because surely nobody would bother to research whether and how rain affects the mood of people, right? Wrong. Who the hell researches something like that, you ask? Our beloved psychologists of course.
A quick search on Google Scholar provides the curious googling person with over 60'000 results related to the keywords “mood” and “rain”. The very first result that caught my attention is a study from 1983 (I guess there just wasn’t enough serious research to do back then) by Schwarz and Clore, which encompassed the following:
Two experiments investigated whether judgments of happiness and satisfaction with ones life are influenced by mood at the time of judgment. In Experiment 1, moods were induced by asking for vivid descriptions of a recent happy or sad event in respondents’ lives; in Experiment 2, moods were induced by interviewing participants on sunny or rainy days.
We’re going to ignore the results from Experiment 1, because that’s not what we’re looking for here. So, let’s focus on Experiment 2, as it deals with weather as the variable of interest.
The results of the study have shown that subjects reported more happiness and satisfaction with their life as a whole when in a good mood than when in a bad mood. No surprise there. But here it comes: Subjects that were questioned on sunny days felt happier than subjects that were questioned on rainy days. Unbelievable, that can’t be right! Let’s keep looking.
Here’s another promising sounding study by Klimstra et al. (2011). They went to even greater lenghts as they hypothesized that there are different weather reactivity types which influence how an individual reacts to weather:
In the current study, we sought to identify weather reactivity types by linking self-reported daily mood across 30 days with objective weather data. We identified four distinct types among 497 adolescents and replicated these types among their mothers. The types were labeled Summer Lovers (better mood with warmer and sunnier weather), Unaffected (weak associations between weather and mood), Summer Haters (worse mood with warmer and sunnierweather), and Rain Haters (particularly bad mood on rainy days).
Their results suggest that weather reactivity may run in the family, as the mothers of the participants show similar patterns of weather reactivity. I certainly did not expect that. But there is no “Rain Lovers” type, so I’m not sure where I fit in. Anyway, here are the key points:
- Summer Lovers were happier, less fearful, and less angry on days with more sunshine and higher temperatures.
- The Unaffected group showed negative correlation between anxiety and temperature as well as percentage of sunshine.
- Summer Haters were less happy and more fearful and angry when the temperature and the percentage of sunshine were higher.
- The final group, Rain Haters were more happy and fearful, but less angry, on days with more sunshine and higher temperatures.
Interesting, but sadly my question didn’t get answered. Luckily, that one other study by Forgas et al. (2009) comes to the rescue: They predicted and found that “weather-induced negative mood improved memory accuracy”! In their study, shoppers on cloudy, rainy days (that were in a bad mood) remembered more items that they had seen in the check-out area than the people on bright, sunny days (that were in a good mood).
That’s good enough for me, as it at least somewhat proves the enhanced productivity and focus aspect I experience while it’s raining. I also think that’s enough researching for this ridiculous question of mine, so I’ll draw the line here. Please, there’s no need for you to thank me for providing you with this valuable knowledge! However, in return, answer me this: Does rain also help you with studying or productivity in general? Or are you one of those Rain Haters? Do you have other explanations for this phenomenon?
Thanks for reading and check back next sunday!