If you live in the Netherlands, you have probably opted out of reading this post; your ears are icy and red, that little toe in your right boot is going numb and your lungs are working over time processing the chilly air as you walk toward your bicycle or leave the office for the tram. Why would you also want to read about the cold?
Because there is another side to it that we forget; it pulls us into life, full force. It’s cozy here behind the computer as I type, but not 20 minutes ago, I was cycling across The Hague along a canal, the pallid sunlight making a feeble attempt to cast it’s warmth through the gray sky. As I pedaled, I watched the bike path with caution, looking for spots of ice. Finely dressed Europeans clothed in an asphalt spectrum of gray to black walked quickly down the paths, or cycled with determination through the cold. I was keenly aware that my pants were not thick enough, that my ears protested the lack of a wool beanie beneath my bicycle helmet.
I like to think that everything looks better under full sunlight: colors pop, angles are sharp, the geography is delineated. But there is a stoic romanticism to a European city beneath a gray sky, punctuated by the startling cold. You notice detail. You are aware of your body turning inward as you simultaneously breathe in the cityscape or landscape with alertness. But the only thing romantic about cold is the anticipation of warmth that will soon greet you at your indoor destination–in this case, my home.
As I unlocked the front door and entered our house, the warmth enveloped me. I immediately felt my spirits lift; any tinges of melancholy that were working their icy fingers around my thoughts were instantly banished, and I felt happy to be inside. The drastic contrast in temperature woke me up to the emotions associated with hot and cold.
On this note of emotions and temperature, I found the following article on fastcompany.com interesting. Here is an excerpt: www.fastcompany.com
In a fascinating study reported in the prestigious journal Science, psychologists uncovered a link between physical and interpersonal warmth. When people feel cold physically, they’re also more likely to perceive others as less generous and caring.
In a word, they view them as cold.
When we’re warm, on the other hand, we let our guard down and view ourselves as more similar to those around us. A forthcoming paper from researchers at UCLA even shows that brief exposure to warmer temperatures leads people to report higher job satisfaction.
Why the link between physical and mental warmth?
Psychologists argue it has to do with the way we’re built. The same area of the brain that lights up when we sense temperature–the insular cortex–is also active when we feel trust and empathy toward another person. When we experience warmth, we experience trust. And vice versa.
For now, I’m enjoying the cold because I am fortunate to have a roof over my head, heating that works and a wonderful husband to cuddle up with at night. But I’m also longing for my upbeat, friendly and loving California friends. Would they still have positive, warm and friendly personalities if they were living for extended periods of time in cold conditions? My gut tells me they would be the same, but climate does play a role in our friendliness.