Coldness is a State of Mind

Steven Aitchison
Written by Steven Aitchison

Over the last month or so the temperatures in Scotland have barely gone above freezing, with the it regularly reaching -10°C.  Something I hardly ever wear is a jacket when I am going out anywhere, even in these cold temperatures, it’s always a shirt or t-shirt I am wearing.  I constantly hear people saying to me ‘You not wearing a jacket, it’s freezing’, and I always laugh and say something like ‘I don’t feel the cold’ or ‘coldness is a state of mind’, people must think I am a little strange. When my sons are in the car in the morning and say ‘it’s freezing’, again I always say ‘coldness is a state of mind’, although I do get a reply of ‘well my mind is freezing just now’.

The truth is I truly believe that coldness really is a state of mind and that I am able to control my body temperature.


How I started control my body temperature

I remember when I was around 20 years old, I was out on the town with a group of friends.  We were in the pub and everybody was having a good time.  When the pub was closing we decided we were still in the party mood, only thing was we had to walk about 1/2 mile to get a taxi.  We all had shorts and t-shirts on as we had only intended to stay at the pub for a few hours and to book a taxi back home.  So we were all freezing cold and shivering, except for one girl called Joanne.  She was quite a skinny girl, but didn’t seem to display the effects of the cold like the rest of us.  The temperature was -9°C, I remember as there was a clock and a temperature digital display in the town centre building.  When I asked her ‘are you not freezing cold’, she casually replied ‘Nah, it’s only as cold as you want it to be’.  I laughed, but she wasn’t joking.  She advised that what she does is remembers a time when she was on holiday in a hot country and thinks back to the feelings of being warm and seeing the sun shine down on her body.  I thought about this for some time after and practised this technique whenever I was out in the cold.

I have now managed to control my body temperature for years and without thinking about the hot climate.

Why the body gets cold

Keeping our bodies within certain limits, usually 36.1 and 37.5 °C , depending on which country you come from, is very important.  Our bodies continually monitor the outside temperature and compare it with internal temperature.  If the outside temperature is too warm the body responds by helping the body lose heat, usually through sweating and other means.  If the outside temperature is too cold, the body again responds by taking evasive actions such as :

  1. Sweat stops being produced.
  2. Tiny muscles under the skin contract and lift the hair follicles upright as a form of insulation, you will know this as goosebumps.
  3. The blood vessels start to constrict and only allow more blood flow to regulate the core temperature of our body
  4. We start to shiver as a way to increase heat production.
  5. Fat is converted into heat energy, particularly brown fat. (Walking for half an hour per day in the cold or taking a cold shower is a good way to lose weight, as you burn more brown fat)

I don’t want to go too much into the biology of the homeosatic process, sufficed to say that all this is done at an unconscious level, by the autonomic nervous system, in other words we don’t need to consciously control body temperature.

However, what I have found is that we can control body temperature to a large degree.  Whenever it’s cold outside I can consciously stop the goosebumps by acting as if it’s a warm day, not just thinking about a warm day but by acting as if it’s warm.  I do this by totally relaxing my body when I am walking or sitting down in the cold.  When we are cold our body tenses with all the muscle action that is going on, which sends more signals to the brain that you are cold, when you consciously relax you skip a part of thermoregulation and send signals to the brain that it’s not that cold outside, therefore increasing the level of blood flow around the body.

Obviously this is not advisable for prolonged periods, so don’t go out walking naked in the snow for a few hours at a time :)

Why the hell am I telling you all of this?

Simply to show you what the mind is capable of.  I know I can control my body temperature to a degree, I can slow down, and speed up my heart rate quite easily, increase and decrease my blood pressure, and many other areas that are controlled by the autonomic nervous system.  I can do this, and you can to simply by using your thoughts.

Little experiment to show you

Put your index finger and middle finger together and place them on your adams apple area, now slide your fingers about 2 inches diagonally to find your Carotid artery and you will feel it pulsing.

If you have a watch or stop clock count the number of beats for 15 seconds.  When you have done that, multiply the figure by 4 and you will have your heart rate .  As I carried this out just now I recorded a heart of 76 beats per minute (bpm).

Now, keeping your fingers where they are,  I want you to imagine you are relaxed and resting on a sun lounge in the most beautiful of places.  The warm sun is gently flowing over your body, the cool breeze passes over you, the sound of the sea swirls around your mind, and you are very relaxed.  Really get into the scene for a minute or two.  Now record your pulse again for 15 seconds and multiplying it by 4 to get you bpm again  and see what you get.

To speed it up I want you to imagine one of the most sexy people on the planet.  You are alone in the lift with them and suddenly they turn around and want to kiss you, you let them, you end up having passionate sex, really use your imagination and get into the scene and do this for a minute or two.  Now open your eyes briefly to record your bpm.

If you got into this you will have been able to lower your bpm, and then raise it simply with the power of your thoughts, also it’s a fun exercise to do :)

Some Amazing Comments


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  • I have been controlling my temperature for years. i’m now 17 and i don’t remember never dining this. when I’m outside with my friends and they are freezing they have no idea why I’m not shivering. i try to tell them to relax but normally they just ignore me ha.
    personally I don’t imagine I’m in a hot place, I find it better if you imagine that by relaxing you are letting all the cold ‘air’ flow out of you through your skin.

    when I started doing biology and released that i must be blocking my homeostatic response i was a bit worried but i still do it. Much better than being cold like everyone else :)

  • oh, I´m freezing here, and it´s about 19oC. Yes, I know, pathetic. I really need some serious mind control!

  • Another proof of how potent our mind can be! So well explained, I must add. With Steven’s personal and yet well-studied delivery, reaffirmations of our belief – in this case, mind-setting – just got easier. Better understood would be the word. I’m kinda intimidated and so I’m like freaking out how to put words in here. Maybe I should direct my state of mind to a better confidence level for now. I’m a li’l too overwhelmed right now. I know that’s a silly excuse, Steve. But really, what can I say. Hmm. Bravo? Yeah, bravo for now. But then you already know I’ve always loved how you write like you’re just having afternoon tea with me. Relaxed but has impact, personal but informative. I could go on and on. But again, I need to recoup and set my mind. For now, this is just way too awesome.

  • Hi Steve: Really interesting post and it does a great job of showing us the power of the mind. I am going to have to put this skill to work in Michigan for sure. We aren’t as cold as Scotland, but it does get pretty cold here. I feel that if we can start allowing our mind to control our temperature, we will only get better and better at having our mind control every experience and positively influence all of our perceptions. This is literally a life changing skill. Thanks for sharing and passing it along.

  • PS I also needed this reminder about the mind in my life right now. Sometime I will tell you why. Bless you dear friend. And thank you for being my friend. Robin

  • Hi my dear friend, I just laughed at you and thought of the times I’ve hiked barefoot in freezing water, or on ice and snow. I LOVE this wonderfully fun part of you that goes out in the snow with only your shorts on. LOL!! :) I too have used this visualization of imagining heat to actually feel it (but haven’t done it for sometime). A martial arts teacher taught it to me years ago, and it always stuck with me. You are truly amazing and inspiring…and funny even when you don’t know you are. :) :) Huuuuuge hugs to you!!! Robin

  • Hi Steven, i think we’re mostly controlled by our mind but you pointed out that actually WE can control our mind and body. I used to tell myself: “it’s very warm, I’m sweating” every time after a bath on the cold day, and it actually helps a bit, less shivering, ha. So i get it when you said “coldness is a state of mind” :)

  • I have so many thoughts to share and I guess I will start by saying what an incredible place to be able to share wisdom and thoughts on topics that will impact our lives greatly! I am a 18 year old male living in Ontario looking to move out on my own but the mental side of things is tough! I know that if I change the dynamic of the situation or change the way I look certain aspects of things, it could make the out come much different and I find that facinating.

    Great posts, great reads, great people !

  • It was a good time for me too read this Steve. It’s in the single digits here in Denver. We have had no heat in our home since about 2am our time last night, and as I write this it’s 11am and we’re waiting for the heating fellow to arrive. And hoping he will at last be able to make the furnace (a new furnace) change its ways and be the reliable little furnace I’m sure it can be.

    So it’s a good time to be happy, and stop shivering, and change my thoughts just as you say…Thanks for sharing Steve.

  • Hi Steven,

    I imagined the lift doors opening and my wife standing there, that really sent my heart rate up.
    Seriously, it’s all about increasing awareness, there is so much we can yet learn about the power of the unconscious mind. And how to apply it.

  • This will be a useful tip for me! I come from a tropical country but would travel at least once or twice a year abroad. While I enjoy experiencing cool weather, I don’t take to the cold very well. I have to bring tons of clothing over concerns that I may catch a chill. Thanks for sharing it, Steven!

    I haven’t visited Scotland but I hope to go over for a holiday one day, without packing a ton of luggage!!

  • Hi Steven,
    Thanks for the facinating post. It is amazing what the mind can create.! We are alot more powerful than we give ourselves credit for!!

  • Could someone please tell me how to get the annoying little box (21, tweet, 12, f share….) off my screen while on this page. This is one of my favorite websites but I am having a porblem reading the articles with the box following me around. Thanks!

  • Hey Steve, it was really fun to read this seeing how I’m from AZ and even while sitting in an office at Scottsdale, I still have to wear 3 layers of clothes to stay warm.

    The mind is powerful and I have experienced the same kind of behavior before. As a kid we would hang out in a hot tub on cold winter nights and then jump into the cold water. After my body adjusted after five minutes I could pretty much stay in as long as I liked without feeling uncomfortable.

    Just one of the many things the mind has power over.

  • It’s minus four celius here today. The cold doesn’t bother me much. A couple of years ago I bought a small hot tub. Knowing that you can get warmed through and though any time you want takes the bite out of winter for me.

    I visualize the same way you do but in the summer. I work as a welder in a small fabracation shop. In the summer, in the afternoon, it can get really hot welding.
    Last summer one of my coworkers was going on and on about how hot it was, it was so hot he couldn’t breath, so hot he couldn’t think straight. I asked him if thinking about how hot it was, dwelling on how hot it was and talking about how hot it was helped him cope with the heat. That stopped him right there in mid-moan.

    I told him I just let the sweat roll down my back . I think about diving into a nice cool pool of water, swimming in cool water…………….that helps me deal with the heat.

  • Wow….I was sitting here freezing as I read this, so I decided to try it out in my own way. I began thinking about my vacation to Jamaica. Almost immediately, I felt warmer. The more I thought about the sun, the less the cold around me was affecting me. Amazing! I’ve been somewhat obsessing over my upcoming move to a much colder climate, so this post was right on time for me. Thanks Steven!

  • There is an alternative to all this….

    Instead of trying to change your mind and convince yourself that it’s warm outside … you can change your latitude and move to where it’s “actually” warm outside ;-).

    On a serious note, Steve, this is a very interesting and compelling topic.

  • Hi, Steven! This is an interesting point, but I don’t think I’m going to join the Polar Swim Association anytime soon. I do plan on running a marathon this year, and I strongly believe that the way I train mentally is just as important as the physical training I do.

    Speaking of the sexy person visualization, you were visualizing your wife, right?! 😉

  • Indeed, Steven our mind is that powerful. Our inner world perfectly mirrors our physical world. When we get sick our depressed immune system quite often is reflecting a depressed state of thinking. I really love the cold. I’ve been enjoying the great cold, crisp, blue New England winter this year… albeit from within a proper hat and a great coat!

  • Steven,

    We haven’t experienced the cruely in the states (at least in the midwestern ones) that you guys have, but it has been pretty brutally cold out there.

    I love the mind techniques you employ here. I began studying NLP in 2005 and one of my first exercises was curing my own headaches without any pain relievers at all. I created an image in my mind of a digital lever and a meter that was directly tied to the level of pain I felt. In my mind, I would put my full focus of my being into turning the lever down. I would watch as the meter (reading the pain) would slowly diminish. Within seconds, the pain would virtually disappear from my head.

    The mind is enormously powerful! Thank you for the reminder my friend.

  • I can sympathise with you over how cold it has been Steven, we’ve had as low as -20C south of the border, and plenty of snow to boot!

    But what you say makes a lot of sense. People can adjust to different climates; those in coldest Russia and hottest India can adapt to their environments, so why can’t we? Sure, it might take a while, but we can do it.

    We CAN control our minds, if we believe we can and we make the effort to :-)

  • Fascinating post Steven. I live in Wisconsin so it is bitterly cold here now and will have ample time (and temp) to practice this technique. It is amazing what the mind is capable of and I know we only have unlocked a fraction of its true potential. Keep up the great work

    • Hey Katie, let me know how you get on. The most important part is to relax and not think about the cold, try and think about something else like a warmer climate. be good to know how you got on if you do do it.

  • A few years back a friend of mine showed some pictures from an indian village in South America which she had visited. On the pictures the indians were out hunting wearing only loinclothes. She said they were so used to this climate so it was not a problem for them. This was probably due to what you say in this post Steven.

  • It really is phenomenal what we can do with our minds. I remember being young, my ballet teacher would tell us off for moaning about cold even though we were in leotards with no heating…..but it is true, as your muscles tense up, blood flow is restricted and you feel even colder. As you relax and forget about being cold, you really do feel it less.

    There are often stories about yogis etc who can control there own heart rate and so on purely by focusing and meditation……if that can be achieved with practise I’m sure we can keep ourselves toastie!

    • Hi Kate, the very act of relaxing heats your body back up and gets the blood flowing again and your example is a great one. I believe anyone with 1 days training could learn to control their heart rate.

  • Very insightful post! The mind has the power to influence the body, but I’d guess it takes lots of exercises, concentration and determination to get it right, or, better said, to gain more power over your mind.

  • Hi Steven.

    I’m here representing the Tough People Association and we want to acknowledge your ability to withstand cold, and to not even wear a jacket at times that normally call for it for most folks.

    We here are the Tough People Association salute you for trying different methods with your mind, to see what you can learn about how we respond to cold. There are people who try and learn, and people who don’t, and, don’t.

  • I have been told over the years that I would probably be very happy sleeping in a freezer. I too have been one that found that wearing jackets were not something I needed and I didn’t have to think about it, I just wasn’t cold. However, in the last two years due to body changes (I am guessing) have found me retreating to a warmer place, wearing extra clothing and this year has been spent shivering a lot. My mental status did not change, in fact I am actually in an area that is warmer in winter than what I am used to. I do agree to a point that attitude and your thoughts can control what your body does. But facts are facts, if you jump in -20 degree water and stay there long enough you will die and I don’t care how much you think of a warm day.

    That said, the power of the mind is quite remarkable. It can, with the help of training and practice, reroute the “wiring” when something damages it. Of course the severity of the damage is a factor, but this phenomenon is what causes a person that can’t talk after a stroke, to be able to “recover”. The truth is not that the mind recovered, or Healed the damaged part, but rather that it just created new routes to connect the good side to the remaining good parts.

    So it is conceivable to accept, and we should practice it, that what you imagine is going to affect how you feel. Your words do have an affect on your life and positive thinking can affect the outcome of a given situation.

    Great post truly makes you think about the power that has yet to be tapped in the human mind.

    • Hi Kathleen. Anybody who has not had training in this kind of thing of course will die if they jump in freezing cold water, but that is the point, with training I believe it would be possible to do what the Tibetan masters do, obviously it would as the Tibetan masters do it :)

  • Hi Steven,

    That’s amazing! The mind is powerful indeed when we train it. As you probably know, Tibetan masters have been practicing the yoga of inner heat (“tummo”) for centuries. They are able to sit in the snow for far longer than a few moments and melt frozen sheets wrapped around them.

    At the same time, I think we each different biochemically and that it’s easier for some to accomplish this than others. Some of us are more prone to feel cold constitutionally, whereas others heat up more rapidly. These days, it seems more people are experiencing dysregulation of the hypothalamus, adrenal insufficiency, and hypothyroidism,which all impact body temperature regulation, making this a more challenging feat for those individuals as well.

    Nevertheless, the main point is that the mind is powerful, flexible, and pliable and we can train it for good uses like kindness, compassion, and insight ~ and for practical goals like staying warm too! Thanks for the reminder.

    • “The mind is powerful indeed when we train it. As you probably know, Tibetan masters have been practicing the yoga of inner heat (“tummo”) for centuries. ”

      This is what I was immediately reminded of too after reading Steven’s post. I know some stories of monks drying wet towels on their back or meditating under freezing waterfalls. It is truly incredibly to what extent our minds can control our bodies.

      Similarly, biofeedback gives others the ability to control their heart rate.

      Great piece Steven! And I thought it was cold here in NY. I guess I need to work on my mind a bit more and face it like a champ. :)

      • I’ve never actually tried biofeedback machines but I’d love to give them a go.

        I hear it’s about -1°C in New York with some light snow – get out in a T-shirt and get walking champ :)

    • Hi Sandra, I have heard of Tummo before and how they have to dry out a freezing cold wet blanket with their own body heat.

      You are right we are different biochemically, but I still believe it is possible for any healthy person to do this.

      thanks as always for your comments.

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