Humans are not polar bears. Our distant ancestry is tropical and, although we adapted to move out of Africa and survive the last of the Ice Age in Eurasia, our bodies struggle to live in cold climates. Nevertheless, we do adapt, somewhat, to cold weather every winter. This is why the first foray into freezing weather feels brutal, but the same conditions in January seem mild.

What happens in our bodies is that blood vessels constrict and dilate, going back and forth between keeping your internal organs warm and keeping your cheeks and toes from freezing. As your body is exposed to progressively colder weather, this process becomes more efficient, leaving you feeling better adjusted to the cold. You "get used to it." People who spend more time outdoors in winter are actually better adjusted to the cold than those who avoid the outdoors in winter.

Newsletter signup for email alerts