On Nature: Prepare the mind and body for the cold |


January in Indiana might force us to adjust our thinking and our actions. Earlier this week my friend Kevin was working on an outdoor project and I texted him to ask if he was staying warm enough.

His answer ?

“Cold is a state of mind and a lack of clothing.”

I replied that I agreed.

While I can’t guarantee exactly what he meant, here’s what I read of his statement: Cold is a state of mind, and it’s up to us to decide which direction our thoughts go every day. When it’s 80 degrees outside, you dress differently than for 40 degrees. So it stands to reason that when the mercury drops to 0, we should dress differently than we did for 40. But do we? Not often enough. Have you checked the actual temperature outside and adjusted your thoughts and actions?

This brings us to the second part: cold is a lack of clothing. There are people all over the world surviving and thriving in much, much colder weather conditions than we experience in Indiana. How do they thrive? By choosing their clothes wisely and using nature to their advantage, instead of working against it. If you feel unprepared for long periods of time outdoors, it’s time to start dressing in the right clothes. By extended periods, I mean anything longer than five minutes.

Start dressing using the three-layer method: a base layer to wick moisture away from your skin, a mid-layer for warmth, and an outer layer to shut out the elements. My favorite base layers are sweat-wicking, long-sleeved shirts and leggings. They are thin, light and easy to slip under your usual winter clothes. The options include both natural fibers and synthetic fibers, the most important part being that they are somewhat form-fitting so that they can do their wicking job well.

Your mid-layer should serve to retain your own body heat. Many people choose synthetic fleece for warmth. My preference is almost always flannel, so much so that when I don’t wear flannel in the winter, my friends laugh at me for wearing something else.

Your outer layer is to keep the elements out. Consider wind and rain/snow protection. This is often called your shell layer. Many winter coats are designed to incorporate both the mid and outer layers into a single item. I like that they are separate garments so I can mix and match them to suit a wider temperature range.

A final thought: cold can be a state of mind, and how we sometimes react to others. Like Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or the Grinch, no one wants to be around a cold-hearted person. They suck life and joy from the beauty of every day. Don’t be cold.

Low temperatures will remain for some time. Change your way of thinking, go to bed and go enjoy the outdoors. Wonderful winter sunrises and sunsets await you!

carole emmert lives in Anderson. She is the founding director of Heart of the River Coalition.

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