This time of year, especially in northern latitudes like Seattle, short days and winter gloom can make even the most optimistic of us feel pretty darn blue. The University of Washington revealed that last Monday, December 7th, 2015 was the darkest day in Seattle in 9 years. Don’t worry though, the next day was better: Tuesday the 8th was only the 2nd darkest day in 9 years. Ugh!
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a reality for many. Symptoms include loss of energy, disrupted sleep, inability to concentrate, and general sluggishness. So how do you survive the winter? Being the eternally positive optimist I am, I have this dorky saying: “Instead of being SAD, be GLAD!”
Activity it up!
D! (as in Vitamin D!)
Yeah I know, you’re about to smack me upside the head right now. But seriously, here are my tips for how to survive the winter blues:
Seattle is an amazing climate in the winter. It’s rarely below zero and there’s seldom snow unless you seek it. This makes it very easy to get outside. “But it’s rainy and nasty!” you say. I get it. It can be hard to drag yourself out when the weather is far from sunny and bright. Think back to when you were a kid and LOVED jumping in puddles! Try to channel that. Get some rain pants, a rain jacket, hat or umbrella and seize your inner rain goddess! Listen to the rain, smell it, jump through puddles and admire their reflections.
Even if it’s pouring rain, I try to go for a walk or run every day and it always makes me feel happier. Getting out forces you to move and to quote Legally Blonde: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Well, you get the idea.
When I get out in the rain I usually find myself laughing at the absurdity of it, which brings me to my next tip…
There’s no better way to change your outlook and boost your mood than with a laugh. It’s scientifically proven that laughing physically changes your entire body. A good laugh stimulates your heart, opens your lungs, stretches your muscles, and boosts your oxygen intake.
Find a movie that cracks you up, go to a comedy show, or set a date with a friend who makes you laugh. Think about things in your life that leave you hysterical. Who cares how ridiculous it is—make yourself laugh and you will instantly feel happier!
Activity it up!
Ok, maybe this is just a reiteration of getting outside, but by “activity it up” I mean find activities you can do, especially in the winter. When I learned to snowboard I couldn’t believe how much fun winter had become! Snow is especially reflective and getting up high in the mountains gets you more light, gorgeous alpine views, and the pure enjoyment of being outside.
Not a skier or snowboarder? No problem! Get out on snowshoes or cross country skis.
If you’re uncertain where to go or how to start, check out the WTA website for a list of guided snowshoe walks and tours. With Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass along with various other locations around the state offering tours, you’re sure to find an option that is both safe and convenient.
Want to learn nordic skiing? It’s a fantastic way to enjoy the winter and get a great workout! If you have the time, I’d recommend a trip to the beautiful and usually sunnier Methow Valley located on Washington State’s North Cascades Scenic Byway. The Valley boasts one of the largest cross country ski networks in the country with affordable rental gear and great instructors who will get you out on the trails in no time. Their 200km of groomed trails create a winter wonderland of adventure for both the novice and advanced skier. It’s a fantastic place for beginners and a stunning location for a little winter getaway.
I frequently spend winters in the Methow and it always boosts my mood! The only challenge is that it’s roughly a 4+ hour drive from Seattle depending on winter driving conditions. If you’re not up for it, nearby Snoqualmie and Stevens Passes have nordic centers that also offer gear and instruction. Check out my links below for more information.
…as in Vitamin D! Sometimes, no matter how active you stay, you just can’t escape the blues. I frequently attend hot yoga in the winter and no, there’s no Vitamin D sunshine there but the heat seems to trick my body into thinking I’m somewhere warm and tropical. If I close my eyes I can almost believe I’m lying on a sandy beach in Mexico.
Ok… maybe your imagination isn’t quite that vivid. In that case, forget hot yoga and simply plan a trip somewhere sunny. Take a vacation to Arizona, California, or Mexico. I’m lucky that my folks live near Los Angeles so I pay them a visit nearly every winter to soak up some sun. Just a few days of Vitamin D can do a body good!
Washington Trails Association: Guided Snowshoe Walks and Tours
Some information about the guided tours offered in the region. The article is a few years old but all the areas listed still provide tours. An easy and safe way to get out and try something new!
REI Rental Gear
REI rents snowshoes and nordic skis along with other winter gear. Check your local store for specifics and availability.
Snoqualmie Pass Nordic Center
50 km of groomed trails and teaching areas with daily and weekly lessons as well as nordic and snowshoe rentals.
Stevens Pass Nordic Center
28 km of groomed trails also including lessons and rental gear. Stevens also hosts many Washington Biathlon Association races.
Northwest Avalanche Center
Always check NWAC for the latest avalanche conditions. Consider taking avalanche awareness courses and check the event section of the NWAC website for more details on free classes and workshops including official AIARE courses.
Methow Valley Winter Activities
Take a winter vacation to the beautiful Methow Valley, located approximately 4-5 hours from Seattle on the scenic North Cascades Byway. 200 km of gorgeous groomed trails await you! The Valley offers ski instruction and rental gear and you can even take out a fat bike for a day. Never tried fat biking? It’s a blast cruising around on snow with 4+ inch width tires. I’d highly recommend it!
If you do find yourself in the Methow, stop by Methow Ski & Cycle. They’re friendly folks who rent lots of winter gear (including fat bikes!) and will give you maps, trail information, and everything you need.
So there you have it! I’ll be writing some more articles offering tips and tricks for winter adventuring. Do remember to exercise winter safety and don’t get in over your head. Know the trail and current avalanche conditions or go with friends who are knowledgeable. Drop me a line if you have more ideas for staying happy through the winter. Stay active, take rainy walks, and embrace snow sports. They really do make the winter much more fun!