Bad weather is good for you (metaphorically-speaking too!)

When we began planning to move from South Africa to the Netherlands, we knew that one of the changes we’d have to adapt to is the weather. In South Africa it’s sunny, mild, and pleasant for most of the year so we could afford to have a weather-dependent mindset. If we took that mindset with us to the Netherlands where the winters are much colder and 80% of the days of the year have some rainfall, we’d miss a lot of the outdoor play and adventuring that we love so much. So we decided to start practicing an “all-weather” mindset.

Over the next year, as we prepared for our big move, whenever it was cold, windy, or rainy, we’d head out for a walk, cycle, run, or beach visit. Our son was young enough to think it was hilarious and fun, and whenever any of us complained, we’d all sing the Dutch idiom we’d learned, “We zijn niet van suiker gemaakt!” (“We’re not made of sugar!”).

We grew to love these cold, wet, invigorating adventures so much – especially our beach visits during the winter and Covid social distancing. In fact, as Summer arrived, we found the hot, busy. blue-skied scene that our favourite beach turned into a little boring and deflating!

The benefits of bad weather

We feel so much more alive when we get out and move out bodies in the cold, windy, or wet weather, so it’s been easy to keep our all-weather mindset. And this article is an encouraging read that affirmed for me that those feelings of increased vitality are more than just feelings. Getting outdoors in bad weather gets us cleaner, more hygienic air, improved respiratory health, increased immunity, better quality sleep, and elevated mood. It didn’t mention the fact that being out in bad weather encourages you to move your body and moving our bodies has all kinds of physical and mental health benefits too. And if the sun should surprise you and show itself during your bad weather adventures, you’ll get to enjoy the extensive physical and mental health benefits of Vitamin D too!

Bad weather in the creative process

Obstacles, frustrations, dry spells, troughs, failures, and dips are all part of the creative process. In fact these things are critical for developing and deepening your work, because they get you reflecting, searching, trying new things, learning, giving up, getting mad at or bored with your own head-shit, and innovating. And that’s what’s going to take you into new creative territory (eventually… it’s going to take patience, perseverance, and trust first!).

Bad weather in other areas of life

The science on the psychology of resilience and post-traumatic growth is clear too that experiencing a discomfort, stress, and even trauma, can play an important role in developing our general resilience and resourcefulness. The word “grit” has become shorthand for the character traits we develop when we tackle things outside of our comfort zone. These character traits include optimism, confidence, creativity, courage, conscientiousness, perseverance, passion, and resilience.

Facing challenges in life can also be very good for our emotional and social development, giving us the opportunity to become more empathic about other people’s life experiences, to learn more about ourselves, and to draw closer in our relationships as we seek out support.

In our most important and closest relationships, there will always be moments or days when “bad weather” blows through. There’s a misunderstanding or someone’s done or said something hurtful. If we try to always avoid walking through this kind of “bad weather” by glossing over conflict or keeping quiet about our thoughts and feelings, our relationships remain superficial and guarded. Deep intimacy is developed not just in the fun and happy bonding moments. Perhaps more importantly and significantly, deep intimacy is developed when we face the discomfort of an honest discussion about a disagreement, hear each other, and respond with gestures of repair. You can’t get to that kind of safety, authenticity, understanding, and deep connection without going through some “bad weather” together.

Develop your all-weather mindset

  • Where in your life have you been trying to avoid “bad weather” and staying in your comfort zone, playing small, or avoiding potential conflict, instead of stepping out into the challenge and discomfort of “bad weather”?
  • What’s fuelling your avoidance of this potential “bad weather”? What are you afraid of? What stories do you tell yourself about what will happen, and what that would mean about you as a person?
  • What can you imagine might be some best-case scenario outcomes and pay-offs if you did stretch out of your comfort zone, despite these fears? What have you been giving up and missing out on by not trying?
  • A sense of humour, good company, and good all-weather clothing are critical for improving the chances that literal bad weather adventures will be fun and fulfilling experiences. What relationships and resources might support you to have a good experience of stepping out into the “bad weather” you’ve been avoiding?
  • What are some bad weather events you’ve made it through? Are there any that you’ve even turned around in some way… so that it wasn’t so bad after all? Maybe it even turned out pretty great in the end?
  • We zijn niet van suiker gemaakt. We’re not made of sugar! What are you made of? Think about all that “bad weather” you’ve handled already, and take some time to journal about a few stories that tell of what’s important to you and what you’re really made of.
  • Bonus points… go and tell someone you love one of those stories about what you’re made of. Then tell them what you see they’re made of that inspires you. There’s a good chance they’ll join in and you’ll get to share a feast of stories with each other about all the wonder and awesomeness that you’re both made of, which you see and enjoy in each other!

As for literal bad weather in art, I love to paint bad weather! It’s beautiful. And paintings of moody skies remind me that there’s always beauty in all that life brings us, which it turn makes me long to get out and play in it all. Feel it all. Live wholeheartedly.