Skip to main content

Rainy days run the gamut from true downpours to barely a drizzle. Having grown up in the damp Pacific Northwest, I know this all too well. After all, Seattle is perhaps the most notorious city for rain in the United States—in the rom-com Sleepless in Seattle, David Hyde Pierce’s character remarks candidly, “It rains nine months of the year in Seattle.” To be fair, rainfall in Seattle averages only 152 days of rain per year (so closer to five months than nine). Nonetheless, that has given me plenty of rainy day insights.

Many of us experience mild rainy day doldrums and become a little stir-crazy when cooped up indoors due to weather. For some, the sense of sadness amidst a lot of gray days is particularly heavy or profound. In that case it’s prudent to speak with a doctor or therapist, who may recommend taking vitamin D supplements or might suggest options to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) if appropriate, such as light therapy.

But to overcome standard rainy-day blahs during April showers or June gloom, you can try the ideas below. Hopefully, having multiple approaches for dealing with your next rainy day (or rainy season) will give you sufficient reason to look forward to that next deluge!

Play in the puddles

A lot of the annoyance of wet weather stems from not having the right gear. Having the basics—a working umbrella, raincoat, and proper footwear—will help keep the rain off you, your electronic gadgets, and anything you own made of paper. If “rain gear” has you picturing dark city streets filled with beige trench coats and gray monotones, let’s paint a new picture.

Your rain boots, raincoat, and umbrella don’t have to be plain and basic black; they can be colorful and unique! I received a splendid umbrella with a print of one of Monet’s famous “Water Lilies” paintings on it as a present from a loved one who knew how much I’d wanted one. Now I look forward to opportunities to use it. Gift shops at museums, gardens, and other tourist destinations are good places to check for beautiful umbrella options. Rain boots are also available in a variety of patterns with polka dots, floral prints, and vibrant colors.

If you are less inclined or able to splurge on fancy rain gear, you don’t have to spend a lot or wait for a gift. You can create something imaginative yourself. This article has some great suggestions on how to decorate umbrellas to make them stand out as stylish or whimsical. Standard rain boots can also be embellished playfully with do-it-yourself ideas like these.To keep costs down, you may be able to find things at thrift stores or from someone you know who doesn’t need their umbrella or boots anymore, and then your imagination (plus the internet!) is the only limit.

There are other small things you can do to help you meet wet weather, like keeping an extra pair of clean socks in your car or a handkerchief to cover your hair. To bring even more cheer, you can play some great rain-related tunes on your way to work, like “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “My Favorite Things,” or this recent rendition of “Rainbow Connection.” When you’re properly accessorized for the weather, you can go “singin’ in the rain” without a care in the world.

Delight in the dark and stormy night of it all

Thunder, lightning, and the pitter-patter of rain outside? What a convenient way to set the mood for an Agatha Christie novel or a classic Hitchcock film. If you prefer something a little campier, try a fun comedy-mystery such as The Pink Panther or Clue, or the more recent Netflix hit Murder Mystery. You may even have some old Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, Boxcar Children, or Harriet the Spy books you haven’t read since childhood stashed in a box somewhere that you can read again or share with your children.

If your rainy day includes a commute—and you don’t have any sensitive, young ears in the car—check out one of the true crime podcasts recommended by Verily contributor Margaret Handel last fall. You can also find audiobooks of mystery novels like The Thin Man or The Big Sleep on YouTube and on other online venues like the digital library built by the nonprofit Internet Archive, which has a bunch of great Old Time Radio options. There’s also The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a radio show starring the incomparable Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson, respectively. The show aired from 1939 to 1947 but is now available as a podcast. Another website, Librivox, has volunteers who record audiobooks, including mysteries. You could even volunteer to read and record one yourself (when not commuting!)

Comfort yourself with all things cozy

If you’re in less of a mood to frolic in the rain or dive into film noir, you can accept the weather outside but seek homey comforts. A stormy day makes a cup of tea with some fresh chocolate chip cookies a pleasant afternoon treat. You can catch an episode of The Great British Baking Show or find something homey to watch on HGTV. You might even dig out a tucked-away knitting, woodwork, or other craft project. Rainy days are also a good excuse to build a pillow and blanket fort—with or without kids in your life!

The Danish concept of coziness called hygge (pronounced “hoo-guh”) can also be extended to include others in the warm glow of candlelight and cocoa. For more ideas on how to practice hygge with friends or family read Verily editor Emily Lehman’s article about surviving (and thriving) through the winter months.

Being aware of your lighting—from overheads to soft white decorative strings of light—and the mood it sets can make a big difference in how comfortable your home feels. Knowing what the various light bulb descriptions mean, including color temperature, can make the difference between creating a spa-like ambiance or runway lights for Santa landing in a fog.

Escape to paradise mode

When you are just completely over the whole gray-day thing, close those curtains and change your view. Where or what “paradise” is can vary depending on what you like. You might want to imagine a tropical place or resort destination like Hawaii, Bali, or the Virgin Islands. But maybe your version of paradise is wine tasting in southern Italy, walking along the Danube in Budapest, or a day at Disneyland. Perhaps you’d choose to imagine yourself as part of the flight crew for Star Trek: Voyager—hey, whatever energizes and inspires you!

If you want to unearth some visual cues for your paradise, sites such as Pixabay and Unsplash have a gorgeous array of photos of all sorts of places that you can download for free. This might also be a good time to pull out photos from a past vacation and reminisce over that experience. To enhance the vacation mood, search Spotify, Pandora, or YouTube for sounds of Caribbean steel drums, Latin dance music, or whichever region’s music picks you up from couch sitting to mambo stepping.

Another option is to choose your own scenery via travel shows. PBS has aired some of my favorite travel shows, which transport you to often sunnier locales. Check out Samantha Brown's Places to Love or Rick Steves’ Europe for fun destinations and savvy travel tips. They may even motivate you to start saving and planning for a real vacation!

A rainy day can be a chance to splash about, chill out to some luau music, solve your next mystery, or hunker down with all things cozy. It’s an opportunity to find whatever reminds you that gray skies could mean more smiles and laughter than you’d previously thought.