A Seattle Local's Guide to Surviving the Darkness
If you've ever contemplated moving to Seattle (or even visiting), it's likely that someone -- or everyone -- asked you how you'd deal with the rain. But it's not the rain that'll get you; it's the darkness.
The kind of darkness that keeps your automatic headlights on at noon and reminds you that Seattle is further north than all the other cities in the Lower 48 (Portland, ME; Fargo; Milwaukee). The kind of darkness that will have you Googling the cheapest flights out to literally anywhere else. The kind of darkness that makes you wonder how anybody conceivably lives here. Thankfully, us locals have devised a few strategies for dealing with this unfortunate reality, and we’d be more than happy to share them with you...
Skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and sledding turn the darkness on its head. Instead of holing up inside, avoiding the bleakness, celebrate activities that can be done only in winter.
Go for a walk outside while it’s still light
Take a hint from the Swedes, who have even less daylight than we do: they always leave the office at lunch and go for a walk -- at least around the block -- in the few moments of daylight each day. And don't be scared of the rain, because, as one local put it, "There's no bad weather, only bad clothing."
Drink hot beverages
There's a reason Seattle has a reputation as a coffee city. The combination of warmth and caffeine is kryptonite to the superhuman soporific and depressive effects of a dark sky.
Also drink cold beverages
Washington State has more craft-spirit distilleries than any other state and the second-most breweries (damn you, California!). Technically alcohol is a depressant, but when you factor in that most of the breweries in Seattle allow kids and dogs, you realize that these places have become the indoor backyards for a grey and wet city.
Get moving, even just a little bit
Studies have shown that taking just a few minutes out of your day to move around has significant health benefits and will keep you happier. So before you decide to binge watch three seasons of a new Netflix show, do some yoga or wild dancing first. Our bodies aren't actually made for hibernating.
Or really, any other hot soup... but there's a reason this Vietnamese noodle dish became so popular here. Long-cooked broths, warm spices, and bright herbs are an affordable and powerful antidote to the siren song of your couch and a Red Baron pizza.
Buy a Lightbox
Sometimes you just can't do it. And that’s okay. You know you should turn off the fourth episode of Making a Murderer before it turns into the ninth, but if you just keep going, you'll finish the season and can finally talk to all your friends about it. If this is you, get a lightbox. We aren’t built to go without sunlight for three months at a time, and artificial lights will at least help tide you over until the sun returns.
Think about how much worse it could actually be
When I was in school in New Hampshire, people would ask how I could live somewhere like Seattle. I'd squint outside, and look at the thermometer that was indicating it was 10 degrees below zero. Other times it would be 90 degrees with 95% humidity. Sure, we have always to carry a light Gore-Tex jacket, but at least if it does snow, everything is canceled and we all go sledding.
Plan a vacation (for March)
Getting out of town to somewhere with sun is an essential survival tool, even if it’s just a weekend on the eastside of the Cascades, where the sun shines more frequently. Ideally, you go to Hawaii, but that's not always in the budget. The key (should you only be able to afford one such trip) is to do it in late February or March. The worst weather is actually in November or December (and if you can do two trips, take the first then). But at that point, you still remember the sun of early October. By the end of February, you've convinced yourself you might never see sun again. Then you come back, revived and able to make it until spring.
Load up on vitamin D
Take it. Lots of it. Talk to your doctor about how much, but since it's absorbed by getting time in the sun, nearly everyone in Seattle is deficient.
Indulge in the Great Indoors
All those TV shows you didn't watch, the KonMari method tasks you skipped, or books you didn't read because you didn't want to miss out on the long summer nights? Now's the time to get around to those. Because come July…
You’ll remember it's totally worth it
In summer, Seattle not only has the best weather anywhere in the world -- warm, mild, and dry -- but the flipside of those dark winters is that the nicest days are also the longest, when the last sun flashes over the horizon well after 10 pm.
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