Our perpetual rainy day slump and why it happens.
Here in the South, when it rains it pours and when it doesn’t pour, it rains for two weeks straight with a constant 110% humidity. Somehow, within those two weeks stretches of time, I always end up lethargic and emotional, not driven to be productive at all. Napping becomes a past time and long philosophical conversations tend to sound more appealing. As introverted as I am, I don’t frequent these kinds of moods other than when the sky is a depressing shade of gray and a dry spot of concrete is nowhere to be found. With the long rain spell with which Wofford has recently been hit, however, this paralyzing mood has invaded campus like the Bubonic plague. I became curious about this and did a little research to see if moodiness and lethargy was a legitimate side effect of rain. Here is what I found out.
When bad weather starts rolling in, blue skies are quickly replaced with tenebrous storm clouds, immediately tapping Mother Nature’s brightness button down a few notches. The dull hue of the outdoor world simulates a “sleepy environment” encouraging us to bundle up in our coziest blankets and crawl into bed with a Netflix episode or two. Following the preceding gloom comes the rain, which acts as a natural sound machine. According to Ken Kronheim, a licensed mental health therapist noted in a Ken Kaye Storm Center article, this white noise actually suppresses the senses, with the lack of environmental noise putting us in a trance, a rainy daze for our rainy days.
With rain comes a girl’s worst enemy: humidity. Rain reduces the barometric pressure, which in turn lowers oxygen levels in the atmosphere. In a more “dumbed-down” version of this, essentially the density of the air decreases and oxygen becomes less condensed and less available. According to the Ken Kaye Storm Center article previously referenced, a study done by Boeing Company in 2008 tested how pilots were affected by a lack of oxygen in their tissues, also known as hypoxia. It became clear that lower air pressure resulted in less oxygen for the body translating into drowsiness, fatigue, and sluggishness. Basically, if you strip down the fancy scientific words it just means that rain causes the air pressure to drop, which makes our bodies slightly under-oxygenated, and therefore extra sleepy.
From a psychological standpoint, Melatonin and Serotonin play a factor in our rainy day blues. Melatonin is a hormone in our body that contributes to the regulation of our sleep-wake patterns. Sunlight suppresses melatonin, so when it rains, there is less sunlight and therefore less melatonin. Without the sunlight to slow our melatonin production, our bodies become sleepy and ready to snooze. Aside from the naps to which we often surrender during bad weather, some of us are guilty of “getting in our feelings” on rainy days. We have Serotonin to blame for this. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in our bodies that is linked to happiness and motivation. Sunshine increases the production of Serotonin, so when there is less sun there is less serotonin and therefore less productivity and happiness in the world. Thanks a lot Mother Nature.
So, all in all, if you’ve been feeling guilty about laying in bed everyday this past week, you can excuse yourself and place the blame on the weather. You watched 2 seasons of a TV show on Netflix in less then 8 days? It was the weather. You cried over your German homework and ate ice cream for dinner? It was the weather. You failed your Biology exam because you went to a party instead of studying? Well, you can’t really blame that on the weather, but I guess you could try.