Contemplating the yin and yang of rain

If you are feeling very good or very bad these days, it may be due to the recent rains.

Take it from two musical camps. In his hit “Laughter in the Rain,” Neil Sedaka croons “Ooh, how I love the rainy days, and the happy way I feel inside,” while The Carpenters declare “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.”

How can one simple form of precipitation have such a diametric effect on people?

I’ve had time to contemplate these conflicting feelings, as we watch more than our normal share of rainfall.

Let’s start with the bad news first. Why would the presence of rain make us feel bad?

When it rains, especially strong and hard like it has been, rain clouds obstruct our access to direct sunlight. When we are exposed to the sun, it increases the serotonin in our brain, which is associated with boosting mood and helping us feel calmer and more focused. With their sunlight dimmed, some people experience depression and sadness.

When it rains, there are changes in barometric pressure and temperature, which can affect our aging bodies. People with arthritis may feel worsening symptoms before and during rainy days. A drop in pressure often precedes cold, rainy weather, and this drop in pressure may cause already inflamed tissue to expand, leading to increased pain.

When it rains, especially during sudden and heavy downpours, raindrops hit the ground and break up clumps of pollen, causing a sudden increase in allergy symptoms. During the rainy season, there is an increase in mold and dust mite counts.

Some people, like me, with allergies to grasses and dust mites may experience congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes, nose and throat, a runny nose, postnasal drip, and more. This is not fun.

Ok, on to the positives.

We all know the plus side of rain. Our air quality improves, fresh water quality improves, and vegetation grows substantially. Yay nature.

My husband recently commented to me how much he loves hearing the rain when he wakes up at night. Our brain processes rain falling as a calming, non-threatening noise, and the simple and repetitive sound of water allows us to rest our overstimulated brains. Many sleep and meditation apps use the sound of rain for just that reason.

There are a small percentage of people, called pluviophiles, who love the rain. These people find joy and peace of mind during rainy days, which gives them a feeling of happiness.

When I was a kid (and didn’t worry what my hair might look like), I loved going out into the rain in the summertime. I liked the smell of rain as it hit the hot pavement, the cold drops as they fell on my skin and the chance to splash in the newly created puddles. I’d stick out my tongue to catch raindrops, and watch as the worms emerged from the soil to travel to new destinations.

The air smelled so fresh after the rain, and, as if offering up a prize for those who looked skyward, we often spotted a rainbow.

If it was particularly heavy rain, or maybe even hail, my sisters and I would stand inside the house, looking out the screen door, as the rain danced before us.

These days, I use rainy weekends as an excuse to sleep in or read my book, two of the true joys of the human experience, especially felt as I get older.

Rain can be therapeutic and healing. It can also cause discomfort and sadness.

Now that I have reflected upon the yin and yang of rain for myself, I think I can see beyond my current allergy discomfort to love what the rain has to offer us - a cleansing of sorts, to begin this, my soon to be 65th year with childlike joy and gratitude.

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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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