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If you're facing a severe winter and want some practical advice to help you cope, such as Surviving The Winter In A Student Household or How To Survive Extreme Weather, this isn't the article for you. However, if you just want a few tips to make life that little bit better, read on!
Ah, the delights of a modern heating system. Just fire it up and away you go. This section has some handy hints on ways to use your central heating to make life warmer. If you don't have one, you'd better skip this section lest you turn slightly green with envy.
I used to be fine with cold, but these days I'm decidedly nesh1. It's having decent central heating that does it.
Time your heating to come on a while before your alarm goes off, and then switch off as you get up. You'll get used to the temperature as the house cools down gradually, so it won't feel so cold when you leave. Plus, it would be a waste to leave it on longer than you need.
Apart from heating your house, of course, you can use radiators to heat your clothes. Be careful not to block the airflow around the radiator though, or it won't heat the room. Try to get one of those drying racks that hang from the radiator - that way it'll take the chill off the clothes without impeding the efficiency of the radiator.
If you have a radiator by your front door, keep your gloves on top. If you're really serious you could even install little hooks above it for your gloves, hat and scarf.
My tip for having a cold morning is to leave the central heating turned off...
And If You Don't...
Those of us who heat with wood use a somewhat different strategy, involving building up the fire the night before, moving some wood from the woodshed to the cradle by the wood stove, nearly closing the damper, and then making some rules about whoever gets up during the night for a drink of water or to use the bathroom ought to put another log on the fire, and the first person up in the morning ought to stoke up the fire.
Your body is a fantastic source of energy. Here are some ideas to make the most of it:
Take your clothes into bed and warm them up under the duvet before you don them. You could also leave them at the foot of your bed overnight – they'll be just as warm as you by the morning. If you can get your pets to lie on them, they'll warm them just as well.
If you don't tend to put on any socks in the morning, carry them in your pocket. By the time you come to wear them they'll have lost their chill.
A little bit of exercise does wonders for waking you up and getting the blood going. A few starjumps by the bedside, a session on the Wii, or - ahem - working with a partner can all be fun ways to wake up and get going.
Children will not only help with body heat if they come for a snuggle, but once they get up, so will you!
Sleep in the smallest bedroom - it'll heat up more quickly. If you share a room with pets they'll heat it too. Some Researchers even go as far as to share their bed with their pets:
Pets are a sadly neglected source of heating.
Chocolate Cat and Leopardess share my bed, and they keep at least part of me warmer, especially when they cuddle up under the duvet. Lynx, being a large, long-haired cat is quite good at keeping my head warm, since he prefers to snuggle up on my pillow. I assume the same goes for dogs and other mammals. Reptiles would probably steal warmth since they're cold blooded creatures - and nothing I would have in my bed.... Eeep!
The right apparel is vital for keeping warm.
Sew yourself into thermal underwear in November. Cut yourself out in June.
Wear slippers as soon as you get up, especially if you have tiles or bare boards rather than carpet. A cold floor can sap a lot of heat from your feet.
Slip on your dressing gown as you slip out of bed. When the time comes for you to dress, do so, but keep the gown on until the last possible second for extra warmth.
You could always blast your clothes in a tumble dryer to warm them up before you put them on. This doesn't work so well when your tumble dryer is in the garage, of course.
As we all know, your head loses a large amount of heat. Keep it covered if it's chilly indoors. A scarf can be wrapped around the lower part of the face as well as the neck for extra warmth.
Fingerless gloves at work or at home are especially good if you're sat in front of a computer or not moving around too much. Thermals or vests are good for keeping your core body temperature high.
Beds are wonderful things. Soft and cosy, you could stay curled up all day.
Stay in bed till summer.
Have a decent duvet, and get one that's slightly larger for better snuggling properties.
Don't be afraid to add more duvets or blankets. Yes, they feel heavier, but yes, you will be warmer. You can also throw them off when you warm up in the morning - especially if your central heating kicks in. Make sure you have the heaviest item close to you and the lighter items on top, or the heavier one will crush the air out of the lighter ones, making them less insulating.
Electric blankets are good for both warming up a cold bed before you get in, and keeping you warm while all snuggled up. If you put it on a timer you can make it switch off once you've fallen asleep or switch on as you're about to wake.
In the Bathroom
If you're having a bath or shower in the morning, you're at your most vulnerable in terms of clothing. Here are some ideas to make the best of it.
If you have time, make it a bath rather than a shower. Not only will it warm you up to the core but it'll warm up the bathroom too.
Either have the hottest shower possible to warm up both you and the bathroom, or end the shower with cool or cold water to bring your skin back to the temperature of the rest of the house - it'll be less of a shock when you get out.
If you have a shower-over-the-bath arrangement, put in the plug once the shower has warmed up. The collected water will both keep your feet warm and keep the heat in the room, rather than letting it drain away.
If you have a radiator in your bathroom, a warm towel can make all the difference when you're coming out of the bath or shower.
Brush your teeth with warm water.
Change your routine to shower in the evenings rather in the mornings. Not only can you cut out negotiating a cold house in the morning but you get extra time in bed!
Food and Drink
Try using warm milk — perhaps with cinnamon — on cereal. A cooked breakfast (in its many forms) is also great. Not only is it hot, but the heat generated from your cooking appliances will warm you up too.
Hot tea or coffee is good for warming you from the inside out. If you can find one, get a Teasmade or a coffee pot with a timer, so it's all ready for you when you wake. The cup also makes a delightful handwarmer.
If you think you can get away with it, you could always try a touch - no more than a teaspoon - of something alcoholic in your morning beverage for that inner warmness. Be careful though, alcohol only gives the impression of being warmer, rather than actually solving the problem.
Here are some ideas to make the best of the great outdoors:
Don't put on your warmest layers until you leave, otherwise you won't appreciate them.
If you're going to be staying in the cold, wear lots of layers. If you're going back into a warm building, however, don't wrap up too much or you'll get uncomfortably hot when you enter.
Prevent your glasses from steaming up when you get back into a hot building from the cold by polishing them with a tiny bit of washing-up liquid before you go out.
Yes - get some fat on your bones. Like a walrus. That's the way they withstand the cold!
Here are all the tips that don't quite fit anywhere else.
Put some extra water in your kettle for your morning brew. By the time you come to leave, it'll be perfect for defrosting your car windows. Of course, we're talking about warm water here — don't put boiling water on your car windows or they might crack. The alternative way of keeping the windows frost-free, of course, is to actually keep your car in your garage, but that also means you have to keep it tidy.
Getting a new car? Remember to look out for heated seats. Mmmm, heated seats.
There are commercial handwarmers that are very useful, especially when waiting around in the cold. They work by triggering a chemical reaction by either letting in air (single use) or by pressing a button, allowing the solution inside to crystalise (reuseable). Both reactions give off a lovely warming heat. Be careful if you are recharging your reuseable ones though:
If you use the Wii console, you can replace the infra-red strip on your TV with two candles set the same distance apart. Ordinarily the infra-red strip gives off radiation so that the Wii remotes have something against which to calculate their movement. The candles simply provide a different source of radiation. Simple!
Keep a blanket handy for wrapping up while watching television, working at the computer or other sedentary activities.
Paint your bedroom in warm, sunny colours. Then in the mornings, you might feel warm and sunny too. Might.
When you're about to leave the house, wash your hands under the hot tap until they're warm, quickly dry them and then put on your gloves before they cool off.
Try putting a side light on a timer to match your alarm clock, so the light comes on either at the same time or slightly before. This can help you wake up on dark winter mornings.
You could avoid the problem entirely by either refusing to get out of bed or hibernating. You could emigrate to somewhere hotter, but then you might need to read the Entry on Surviving Hot Weather...
Those hand warmer thingies are dangerous if you've forgotten you've put them in the saucepan and walk into the kitchen as they are about to explode!
Get up and make coffee for your partner.
Yes, tough. On the other hand, it means no recriminations for tossed aside socks, not cooking, not being tidy... in general being lazy at other times. It's not even a chore if you're sleeping with the right person!