If you can't afford heat during the ongoing economic malaise, there is some good news; psychology surveys show that students who think about happier times are warmer.
The results, published in Emotion, used college students in China and the Netherlands to investigate the effects of nostalgic feelings on reaction to cold and the perception of warmth.
The first project asked participants to keep an account of their nostalgic feelings over 30 days and the results showed they felt more nostalgic on colder days. The second project put participants in one of three rooms: cold (20˚C), comfortable (24˚C) and hot (28˚C), and then asked them how nostalgic they felt. Participants felt more nostalgic in the cold room than in the comfortable and hot rooms. The volunteers in the comfortable and hot rooms did not differ.
The third project, conducted online, used music to evoke nostalgia to see if it was linked to warmth. The participants who said the music made them feel nostalgic also tended to say that the music made them feel physically warmer. The fourth involved placing participants in a cold room and instructing them to recall either a nostalgic or ordinary event from their past. They were then asked to guess the temperature of the room. Those who recalled a nostalgic event perceived the room they were in to be warmer.
The fifth project asked participants to recall either a nostalgic or ordinary event from their past. They then placed their hand in ice-cold water to see how long they could stand it. Findings showed that the volunteers who indulged in nostalgia held their hand in the water longer.
Dr. Tim Wildschut, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Southampton and co-author of the paper, said, "Nostalgia is experienced frequently and virtually by everyone and we know that it can maintain psychological comfort. For example, nostalgic reverie can combat loneliness. We wanted to take that a step further and assess whether it can also maintain physiological comfort.
"Our study has shown that nostalgia serves a homeostatic function, allowing the mental simulation of previously enjoyed states, including states of bodily comfort; in this case making us feel warmer or increasing our tolerance of cold. More research is now needed to see if nostalgia can combat other forms of physical discomfort, besides low temperature."