9 Ways to Trick Your Body Into Feeling Warmer on Frigid Cold Days

Updated: Jan. 27, 2021

Toasty tips for those days you can barely get out from under the covers.

Woman in a beanie blowing onto her gloved hands.

Focus on your breath

The way you breathe may help keep you warm, and it’s more than blowing warm air on your hands. There is a Tibetan practice called vase breathing that is thought to raise body temperature, although you might need to put some work into it and also use in combination with visualization and meditation. “Vase breathing is an element of the g-tummo meditation practices of Indo-Tibetan Yogis,” explains Laura Stix, a naturopathic doctor and clinical hypnotherapist in Ontario, Canada. “It is a sacred practice and research to date does support the efficacy of this breathing technique to increase body temperature, though it is not clear how exactly it does this.” She explains that vase breathing includes holding the breath and contracting abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. But there’s a secret to this. The key is to do this in a manner that makes your protruding belly take the shape of a pot-like vase shape. Additionally, she says that it’s also helpful to practice visualization while doing this. Imagine warm energy filling your body. A study shows that without visualization, people can only do “Forceful Breath vase breathing for a limited time, resulting in limited temperature increases in the range of normal body temperature,” according to a 2013 study in PLoS One. If you want to learn more, check out this YouTube video on how to do vase breathing.

Bearded man in a scarf and winter vest in the snow.

Bundle up the smart way

Layers trap heat and help prevent sweating (which makes you feel colder). The U.S Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration notes the importance of dressing in layers to stay safe in cold weather. They suggest wearing at least three layers of loose-fitting clothes to provide ideal insulation. Specifically, they say to wear an inner layer of wool, silk, or synthetic material, such as thermal leggings. This keeps moisture from the body. Second, wear a middle layer made of wool or synthetic material. This acts as an insulator when wet. Finally, wear an outer wind and rain protection layer for ventilation. Resist the urge to wrap clothes tightly, too. They add doing so reduces blood circulation, which is necessary to keep your extremities warm. This year, be sure to add a winter face mask for Covid-19 protection to your ensemble.

Plaid blanket with a cup of tea and notebook.

Layer your blankets properly

For a cozy bed, use multiple blankets to help trap heat. Just like dressing in layers, this concept works similarly. Start with flannel sheets. Then put your heaviest comforter on the bottom, and layer thin, dense blankets on top. If you keep your bed pushed up against an external wall of your home, pull it a few inches toward the center of the room on chilly days. If you’re an older adult, the National Institute on Aging says that you’re more likely to lose body heat faster than when you were young. Therefore, they suggest keeping a blanket over your legs whenever possible and wearing socks and slippers. They also recommend wearing long underwear under pajamas and using extra covers when going to bed.

Woman in a fur trimmed collar and gloves holding a mug.

Eat something fatty

If you plan to stay outside for a long time, fuel your body’s inner furnace by eating. And don’t worry about calories—that’s precisely what you need to keep warm. “Any time we ingest food our body produces some increased heat,” explains Stix. “Research suggests that the largest determinant of the thermogenic effect of food is its caloric content. Given this, the richest source of calories comes in the form of fat, considering one gram fat provides 9 calories, while a gram or protein or carbohydrates supplies only 4 calories.”

Woman in a scarf and coat outside in the snow.

Tie your scarf like this

Use a hidden knot to protect your neck and chest from the cold. Here’s how it works: Drape the scarf over the front of your neck so the ends hang backward over your shoulders. Then, cross the ends behind your head and bring them to the front. Cross the ends over each other, and pull one end through, to make a loose knot. Tuck the knot under the front of the scarf.

Person in gloves holding a snowball.

Hand warmers

Try this easy method to help keep you warm. Packaged hand and foot warmers are inexpensive and available at most hardware stores and camping outlets, or you can buy them online. The type can vary, but they generally contain a combination of iron, water, salt, activated carbon and the mineral vermiculite which generates heat when exposed to oxygen. To activate the warmers, you usually just unwrap or twist the bag, causing a chemical reaction with a hot byproduct. Tuck a bag into each coat pocket for toasty hands.


Think happy thoughts

A study published in the journal Emotion found that nostalgia truly evokes warm and fuzzy feelings. Participants who recalled a nostalgic event (versus an ordinary one) had a greater tolerance for intense cold. Next time you’re waiting outside on a frigid day, summon up those happy thoughts of coming home to a surprise party or opening presents on Christmas morning.

Person in a gray sweater holding a mug of tea.

Sip something warm

Hot drinks and soups will make you feel warmer, if only for a little while. “Drinking a non-caffeinated tea or hot beverage doesn’t actually change our internal body temperature,” says Stix. “However, receptors in the back of the throat will sense the hot fluid and trigger the body to sweat a little.” Additionally, she explains that holding a warm cup in your hands will warm your palms and fingers too. Interesting, she says that the power of your mind may play a role. “It has been found that part of the warming effect to drinking a hot beverage is the belief that it’s heating you up, which in turn will actually make you feel as though you are.”

Rolling pin on gingerbread cookie dough.

Bake gingerbread

Ginger has been used for centuries to help increase body temperature and research supports this thermogenic effect,” says Stix. “It is believed that the polyphenols in ginger, called gingerols, are responsible for this effect, by triggering a small increase in production of adrenaline (epinephrine).” She adds that capsaicin from hot peppers appears to act similarly. “So if you want to get a real warming boost, try drinking ginger in the form of tea, with sprinkled on cayenne pepper to help increase that sense of warmth.”

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest