How to Survive — and Thrive — During a Seattle Winter
From acquiring the essential gear, to nutritional tricks and ideas to get you out of the house, here’s our guide to braving your next Seattle winter.
The morning and evening commute are shrouded by darkness, the sun hangs low in the sky, and you cringe when looking at the weather forecast: five more days of rain. The house temperature hovers well below comfortable, and it’s all you can do to get yourself out of bed in the morning. For those who have lived in Seattle during the wintertime, it might come as no surprise that the Emerald City is gifted with the designation having the 2nd most depressing winter in the country. And as the northernmost major city — and one of the wettest — in the nation, there’s simply no changing that.
That leaves it to us Seattleites to learn how to enjoy our long and dark winters. Follow along for our Northwest-born and Northwest-bred ideas for not just surviving — but thriving — during these upcoming months.
Gear beta: How to stay dry
We’re not suggesting you go on a shopping spree — but just a few essential pieces of clothing can make the world of difference in your comfort levels outside. These pieces of gear might actually have you enjoying the cold and wet this year!
1. Don’t skimp on your rain jacket
If you live in Seattle, a rain jacket is decidedly NOT the item in your wardrobe to buy cheap. You’ll never regret investing in a waterproof GORE-TEX shell from any number of high-quality brands, including Seattle’s own Outdoor Research. Technologies have advanced to such an extent that rain jackets are now both breathable and fully waterproof. No leaks — no joke. A good jacket is your No. 1 barrier (literally) against the ills of a Seattle winter.
2. Commuters: Waterproof your feet
If you’re one of the many hardy souls in Seattle who commute to work by bike, a pair of waterproof overshoes will make your mornings and evenings drastically more enjoyable. Even if you have the best fenders in the world, there’s no stopping your feet from getting soaked in a downpour, and shoes can take forever to dry out. GORE-TEX brand even makes a pair that’s thermo-lined for warmth. For those who walk to work, consider GORE-TEX brand’s waterproof casual shoe line that will help keep your socks and feet dry.
3. Look good and stay dry
It’s always a challenge to match style with functionality, but with these GORE-TEX boots from Danner, you can walk through puddles from the bus to the office and look good doing it. A wide range of GORE-TEX boots and shoes are available from many of your favorite brands. If you can eliminate wet feet during your Seattle winter, it’s one less thing to complain about!
We humans are animals, and in the wintertime our bodies tell us that it’s time to hibernate. Exercise becomes a chore, and curling up on the couch with hot chocolate and Netflix seems a much more fitting activity. Inevitably, we put on a few pounds and feel a bit sloth-like. Although it can be helpful to embrace this aspect of winter rather than fight it, finding creative and enjoyable ways to keep your food intake healthy (while you sit on the couch watching Netflix) can make all the difference in your mood.
1. Take your vitamins
Less sunlight means less serotonin in your body, which can result in depression and food cravings. Help yourself avoid the vicious cycle of eater’s remorse by supplementing your diet with vitamins — notably vitamin D. Additionally, healthy carbs such as whole grains, sweet potatoes, and squashes can boost serotonin levels. And don’t stop there—make sure you’re consuming food rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, such as citrus, cabbage, broccoli, and spinach, for immune-boosting power that will help you avoid the winter flu.
2. Take time to cook
Life slows down in the winter, and with long evenings in the dark, there’s ample time to hole up in a cozy kitchen and cook tasty and nutritious meals. Maybe you try out 10 different soup recipes this season, or perfect your whole grain bread recipe. Chinese medicine teaches to slow cook your vegetables over low heat in the winter and add less water, infusing food with heat that will help to keep your body warm. This year, consider investing in a slow-cooker and expanding your dinnertime repertoire.
3. Eat with the season
Though we may often be surrounded by concrete and hemmed in by ceilings, there’s no denying that we’re inextricably connected to the world around us. And nature often knows best. Along with embracing the hibernation aspect of these months, you can embrace the food that our earth produces at this time of year. Whereas your body might beg for the cool sweetness of berries or citrus in the summertime, it now craves the warmth and comfort of winter vegetables like squash, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, apples, and kale. ’Tis the season for warm and hearty food.
It’s easy to hole up in the winter months, and while some hibernation is a good thing, spending too much time at home can lead to difficult moods. You can live in guilt for months, fearing that you’re not active enough, not inspired enough, not fit enough — or you can invest in a different set of activities more in line with your body’s winter cravings. Summer will come, with long days and weeks spent outdoors, but winter can be embraced as a time for exploring other parts of your inner and outer world.
1. Quite simply: Get out of the house
You might feel drawn like a moth to the flame with your favorite chair and a cup of tea this time of year, and though this satisfies your desire for creature comfort, it’ll leave you wanting in the adventure department. You know a stroll around the block would make you feel great, but getting out the door can be quite the challenge. Make a pact with yourself this winter to take the first few steps — bundle up, schedule a walk with a friend, set your alarm a half hour early — and get out of the house. And you can make it cozy too: take a thermos full of tea and some freshly baked snacks to the beach, or meet a friend for morning coffee at one of your favorite Seattle skyline vistas. In sum, make the small effort to create simple reasons to get out of the house — the experiences will form from there.
2. Explore a new world
We all get stuck in our routines and our comfortable spaces. Maybe it’s the brewery or the climbing gym, church or your favorite music venue. But what’s slightly outside of your comfort zone? Have you ever heard live jazz music, listened to a poetry slam, or tried one-on-one language lessons? Tried Ethiopian food, taken a pottery class, or learned to make cheese? With less time to play outside, winter is an excellent time to explore new hobbies or invest in developing other, perhaps less physical, parts of yourself.
3. Get your float on
Winters can be trying — mentally, emotionally, and physically — and sometimes you just need to take a little time for self-care. A few hours in a sensory deprivation float tank, floating in water the same temperature as the air and surrounded by pitch blackness, could be the retreat or reset that you’ve been looking for. Seattle has a number of float venues, including Float Seattle, Life Float, and Urban Float.
4. Replace rain with snow
Let’s face it, Seattle: you’re just not going to be able to avoid wet stuff falling from the sky in the wintertime. But in the many mountains around town, rain turns to snow and becomes a much brighter, playful, more festive experience. So skip the sopping gray concrete of the city and head to the vibrant, snowy hills. Ski the backcountry of Mount Rainier, snowshoe at Stevens Pass, or head up I-90 just a few minutes to find good sledding terrain.