Jan 19, 2024 - Culture

How Portlanders survive the dark days of winter

Animated illustration of snow falling on the Portland skyline in a snow globe.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

There are nine-ish hours of daylight during winter in the Pacific Northwest, making it one of the darkest regions in the country thanks to near-constant cloud cover and rain far into spring.

  • Yes, but: As Portlanders who've chosen to make this place home, we're more than well-equipped to only see the sun 29% of the time between solstices.

Why it matters: Incorporating enriching activities into your day-to-day life during the winter months — when serotonin and melatonin levels traditionally fall — is a crucial way to stave off bouts of seasonal depression.

Driving the news: Axios Portland asked readers how they trudge through these grueling months to brighter, greener days.

  • Many find solace in a simple outdoor stroll, while others plan elaborate dinner parties or find a cozy nook in Powell's for reading — and people-watching.

Here's how we're staying sane:

Find time for a walk

"What appears so dark from indoors is amazingly brighter once you are out in it," reader Judy R. said. "Find a favorite place you return to frequently to notice the subtle changes from day to day."

  • Judy's favorite spot is Broughton Beach.

Host a dinner party

JoAnn W. finds joy in having themed dinner soirées with friends — in past years she's had a build-your-own fajita bar, a layered-food party (think lasagna and crepes) and even challenged guests to only bring foods starting with the letter "P."

  • "I love food and my friends, so combining them has always been the ultimate goal!" she told Axios.

Take a class

Portland Community College has dozens of non-credit courses any Portlander can enroll in. That's what reader Madeline W. is doing to take the edge off.

  • "Last term I took Celtic Consciousness, the art, music, history, mythology and psyche of Irish culture," she said. "This term I'm taking a drawing class, Sacred Geometry — think compass and ruler drawing of mandala-type images."

Book a vacation

Sometimes the best way to survive Portland during the winter is to leave.

  • Chris H. heads down to Kauai, Hawai'i, for two weeks every January, and by the time he's home in February, "early spring gardening is just around the corner."

Read a book

"Rainy days are great days for reading," Dave P. said. "There's a reason why Powell's is that big."

  • You could also take that new novel to a coffee shop and use it as a decoy to eavesdrop on those around you and indulge in anonymous gossip (for Overheard in Portland, perhaps).

Embrace the cold

A growing group of fanatics believes plunging your body into frigid water improves overall well-being and can beat the winter blues.

  • There are plenty of places to cold plunge in Portland, including indoor spas like Knot Springs and Pure Sweat Studios, but the Columbia and Willamette rivers are always there for those who wish to brave below-40-degree waters.
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