When it’s pouring down with rain – as it often is, here in the UK – a walk might be the last thing on your mind. However, as it turns out, walking in the rain has a huge range of benefits for your physical and mental health.
We take a closer look at why walking in the rain is so beneficial for your well-being, before exploring how you can make the most of your showery strolls..
4 health and wellness benefits of walking in the rain
1. The petrichor scent calms your mind and body
Have you ever noticed the smell of rain? Or rather, the smell of the ground and air during or after the rain? If not, the next time you’re out in a downpour, take a deep breath. That sweet, fresh, soothing scent is called petrichor, and it is seriously good for the soul.
What is petrichor?
This evocative fragrance is created when compounds from plant oils, accumulated in soil and rocks, are mixed into moisture droplets and released into the air – think of it like rainy day aromatherapy. As well as the benefits from the airborne plant oils themselves – depending on your environs – petrichor has calming and mood-boosting properties.
This is thought to stem from a cultural imprint, derived from our ancestors, who would have found food and water more plentiful in times of rain than drought. Cue natural calming thoughts!
2. Walking in the rain helps you shift your perspective
When next in the rain, take a moment to become present to your surroundings (rather than shuffling along, head-bowed to the nearest shelter!), and you’ll be astounded by what you see.
The world becomes a different place when shrouded by rainfall, diffused in a unique light, with everything changing in shape, colour and sound. You may even encounter natural splendours reserved only for those who venture out in wet weather: steam rising from the ground, yellow storm light, flowers closing their petals until the sun emerges again.
This different view of the world can help inspire a shift in perspective in other areas of life, too. A little shake up of how you see things is sometimes all you need to make positive progress.
3. You breathe cleaner air on rainy walks
If you’re hoping to get a little fresh air, there’s no better time to go for a walk than when it’s raining. As a raindrop falls through the atmosphere, a natural phenomenon occurs whereby the droplet attracts tens to hundreds of air pollution particles such as traffic pollution.
This process does a remarkable job of cleaning the air around you, making it better to breathe in. A 2015 study published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics demonstrated just how effective rain is at reducing air pollution. Dan Cziczo, of MIT in the US, which carried out the research, said the results of the study showed rain had the potential to improve air quality and human health.
4. You’ll learn to let go of what you can’t control
There are many things in life beyond your control, yet sometimes it can be a struggle to let go and truly accept what is. From grieving a lost loved one, to feeling stressed about a job interview, there are times when releasing control is the best and only thing you can do… and taking a walk in the rain can help.
You can’t control when it rains, just as you can’t control so many aspects of life. The weather is unpredictable, so a stroll in the rain can help remind you of that. And if you can learn to be OK with rain, you can take that acceptance into other areas of your life.
How to reap the benefits of walking in the rain
Next time you hear the pitter-patter of raindrops, resist the urge to hole up indoors. Don your wellies, grab a brolly and head outside for a rain walk. Maintaining a positive outlook all comes down to being truly present in the moment…
1. Breathe mindfully while walking in the rain
Being fully present always begins with breathing, so bringing your awareness to your breath is the first step. Mouth-breathing triggers a subtle anxiety response whereas deliberate and focused breathing through your nose is calming and works wonders for clearing your mind.
Take a series of deep, steady inhales and exhales through your nose, releasing slowly and focusing wholly on the process at hand.
2. Release distracting thoughts as you walk
As you walk, continue your conscious breathing and work on letting go of distracting thoughts. Don’t try to ignore or suppress them, instead, listen, acknowledge and then deliberately let them pass. Keep returning to your breath and what you are doing right there, in the moment.
3. Observe your surroundings
Now, extend your presence to the new, wet world around you. Notice the smell of petrichor and observe how it affects your mood. Really look at your surroundings and take in the unique qualities rain brings to everything.
Feel the droplets on your skin and listen to the meditative sound. Try to find a place in your mind and body where you are accepting of everything around you, internally and externally, clinging to nothing. Simply exist, let go and be with the rain.
4. Reflect on your walk in the rain
When you’re ready to go back indoors, allow yourself a little time to ease back into normality. Take a hot shower, enjoy a cup of tea or simply sit quietly in contemplation for a short while in a warm room. Reflect on your new experience of rainfall and the positive impact it has had.
Words: Ruby Deevoy | Photos: Shutterstock