Jeremy Laurance: Why we should spend more time around the fire this winter

Medical Life

I was once asked by a couple I knew to arbitrate in their marital dispute. Their disagreement was not over children, or money, or bedroom etiquette. It was over heat. The husband thought that he should be able to wear a T-shirt year-round in the house. His wife thought that it was not unreasonable in winter for him to consider wearing a sweater.

At the time, I took the wife's side. In the battle of the thermostat, I am a 19-degree man, while my own wife is a 22. Her argument is that her memories of childhood are dominated by clutching radiators, plunging hands into bowls of hot water (which only caused chilblains) and piling on the eiderdowns in the struggle to stay warm. She insists that she would rather be warm and poor – with rocketing fuel prices – than cold and rich.

At the weekend, I padded downstairs at 6.30am on Sunday to turn the thermostat down, something I do frequently and surreptitiously. She, however, cranks it up, noisily and publicly. With huge increases in fuel bills looming, similar arguments are presumably going on in households across the land. But after climbing back into bed, I wondered whether I shouldn't have had another think.

For one thing, as I get older, I feel the cold more. For another, I returned at the weekend from a country, Zambia, where the midday temperature was around 35 degrees. It is impossible not to notice how, despite their lack of material resources, the people there remain astonishingly cheerful. Walk through Garden Compound, the poorest area of Lusaka, the capital, and compare the smiling faces with those on the average London street.

Is there a link between mood and heat? Is the Pope a Catholic? The extrovert, exuberant peoples who inhabit the sunny shores of the Mediterranean are a world away from the dour, introverted peoples of northern Europe, who must insulate themselves against the cold, and one another, through the long, dark winters. Human beings came from the tropics, and climate influences the way we feel, the fiery and the frigid.

Physical warmth and psychological warmth are closely linked. A warm heart is a generous heart, and we are more likely to trust someone with a hot drink in our hands than a cold one, according to psychologists. Conversely, people who are lonely or depressed are more likely to feel the cold. Being social may be as effective as being active as a strategy to beat winter's chill.

It will not be easy to resist tweaking the thermostat as I pass it. But one thing I resolve to do this winter is get in the logs and spend more time gathered around the fire.



History has been made by the BMJ Group, part of the British Medical Association, which announced last week that it was to take over publication of 'Acupuncture in Medicine', a quarterly journal and its first complementary-medicine title. Twenty years ago, the BMA described alternative medicine as a "passing fashion". Now it has decided that it can't beat it, so it had better join it. What next? The Ministry of Defence's guide to UFOs?

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvSpoiler alert: It has been talked about for months
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington
tv
Voices
Almost one in 10 of British soliders fall victim to serious psychiatric side-effects after being prescribed Lariam.
CHRISTMAS APPEALThis is how one charity is using that 'waste' to feed Britain's war heroes
Life and Style
Facebook has apologised after a new feature inviting users to review a collection of their 2014 highlights caused some to be confronted with pictures of their recently deceased family members and friends
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Property Manager

    £13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Junior Property Manager in a yo...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Development Manager

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

    Recruitment Genius: Service and Installation Engineer

    £22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO / Outreach Executive

    £20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a global marketin...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?