How To Survive Winter In Seattle

Last Updated on October 11, 2018 by Estrella

Seattle has attracted many newcomers because of its beauty.   However, some may not be prepared for its weather.  This article is a survival guide for Seattle winter.

If you moved to Seattle in the summer, you’ll love the weather.   The sun is out; there is no rain; everyone is happy.

Then starting sometime in October, along with the colorful autumn, you’ll see overcast sky.    Sometimes, a lot of rain.   This combination gets a lot of people feeling a bit depressed.   Some people are more affected than others.   Actually, there is a name for it.   For those who feel depressed during the dark winter days, they are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.)   Why it’s called a disorder, I don’t know.   Isn’t it just natural for the body to want more sun?

In area where it’s sunny, our body knows when it’s morning because the sun shines through the window.   In a region like Seattle, where it’s overcast in the winter months, that’s not the case.  Less sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood.   There may be a connection here.   You can do some research on the topic if you are interested in the medical explanation.

What can I do to feel good in Seattle winter months?

If you feel a difference in energy level or a difference in your mood on days when it’s overcast, some of the following tips may help you.

Get a full-spectrum light with 10,000 Lux

Full-spectrum light simulates sunlight.   Some call it fake sunlight.  The company Verilux has quite a few of these.   It even has an alarm clock with a light that gets brighter gradually so you wake up to some simulated sunlight.

There is also a small portable lamp called HappyLight Liberty, with 10,000 Lux.   It’s light-weighted, so you can move it from room to room.   You can use it at home, then take it to the office.  The instruction will tell you how close you need to be to receive the maximum benefit.  Don’t worry, you won’t get sunburn from this! 🙂    Any light with less than 10,000 Lux is not very effective for the winter blues.

The effect is immediate.   As soon as you turn on the light, you can tell the difference.

Have social interactions

If you are new to the area, and if you are not fluent in the language, this is especially important.   And if you have already made friends here, call them, invite them to tea or coffee.

There’s something about social interactions that can change your mood.   If you don’t know anyone here yet, get on SKYPE with your friends and family.    There are also groups that get together for different interests.   In another article I wrote on How to make friends in a new country, I went into details about the topic.

And if you don’t wish to meet people in a group, you can go to a coffee shop.   Being surrounded by people can shift your energy, even on a rainy day.

If you have a dog, taking him to the park for walks can help you meet new friends.   People will come up to your dog, and you can start a small conversation.   Even that small interaction will help.

Say hello to the cashier when you go to the supermarket.   One of my cousins was visiting from England.   She was surprised that every cashier said “How are you?” to her.    Maybe it’s not a custom in your country to chat with strangers.   Just know that in Seattle, many people do that.   I know people who go to the same supermarket simply because the employees are friendly to them.

Don’t stay home

This might take a little self-convincing.   When it’s overcast outside, you may not be in the mood to leave home.   If you are feeling a bit blue, talk yourself into going outside, even if it’s for a little bit.

And if it’s drizzling, put on a raincoat and step outside for a little while.   It is surprising how a small action can change your mood quickly.

Volunteer Park has an observatory with tropical plants.   The temperature is always warm inside because of the orchids and cactus.   It feels like spring or summer there.   Spend an afternoon in there.  You’ll feel better when you leave.

Look for fun things to do in the community.   There are evenings with art gallery walks, authors speaking at bookstores, musicians playing in some coffee shops.

Be around people, even if you don’t talk to them.   Or be around animals.  They always know how to feel good.

Watch happy movies

If you enjoy watching movies, the library carries many DVDs.   Watch the happy ones to lift your spirit.    Here are a few to get you started.

The Holiday

The Intern

You’ve Got Mail

Book Club

These are just a few of the things you can do to feel better if you are affected by the dark winter days in Seattle.   I am sure as you experiment with some of them, you’ll add to this list very quickly.

If there are other topics you would like me to address, please email

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email

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