Today’s prosaic secret to happiness? Long underwear.

A humbling fact about the happiness project is the many of the ideas that have made the biggest difference in my life are so…simple.

Take, for example, one of my Twelve Commandments: “Identify the problem.”

There have been so many instances where I’ve been unhappy with a situation, but didn’t take the trouble to analyze what was bothering me—and therefore, couldn’t take steps to fix it. Once I identified the problem, I saw the solution.

Here’s a humiliatingly obvious example.

I’m someone who is always, always cold. I’m often very uncomfortable in places that other people find perfectly warm. I have to be careful when I change the Little Girl’s diaper, because my hands are always icy cold. I’ve been known to wear a wool hat indoors.

One of the worst situations is a dinner where everyone is dressed up. The room is set to be a comfortable temperature for men wearing full suits, and I’m usually wearing a dress.

Finally, I thought – “Identify the problem.” I’m cold. How could I be warmer? Well, I could dress more warmly. How do I do that, if I’m wearing a sleeveless dress? I could wear a bodysuit. So I went to a lingerie store and bought a bodysuit (also fulfilling my resolution to “spent money to further my goals”). It’s astonishing how much warmth a bodysuit provides, without adding any bulk.

For the last week, New York City has been having a spell of extraordinarily cold weather. Instead of complaining (well, truth be told, in addition to complaining), I’ve taken steps to dress more warmly. I wear long underwear, two sets of socks, and my heaviest sweaters. This isn’t rocket science, but a few years ago, I doubt whether I would have thought to wear long underwear during a regular work day, no matter how cold it was. It just wouldn’t have occurred to me.

Every time I’ve managed to “identify the problem,” I’ve been able to arrive at least a partial solution. Why I need to make a special effort to notice a problem that’s bugging me, I don’t know—but following this rule has made a big difference.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Kara

    Have you heard of Cuddl Duds? They’re a brand of long underwear, but they aren’t at all bulky like traditional long underwear is. I just found out about them from a friend, and they’ve significantly helped me with the cold weather!

  • I wear silk long underwear under work clothes– got them from Lands End a few years ago. My coworker was shocked when I showed her how thin they are.
    It’s been cold in Philadelphia too!

  • How about those of us on the other end of the scale – always warmer than average? Especially in Houston (where it is very nice right now, but in about 2 months, it’ll be hotter than a 2-dollar pistol).
    The only solution I’ve been able to come up with is move to where it’s cooler. On the other hand, my wife likes it here.
    So, I guess I’m still on the “identify the problem” stage – is it the weather or my wife?

  • We so share the coldness gene. You should see me out in my garage studio trying to lampwork. I can barely walk I’m so layered with clothes including earmuffs. Check out the earmuffs on They come in about 6 different burberry plaid combos and they are adorable. I always freeze at the movies where I can be found in long underwear, down coat, gloves and of course my “signature” ear muffs.I think I posted about the earmuffs on kstyle. k

  • I am very cold natured also and wear long underwear. One problem I have though is wearing long underpants with the low rise pants. Very awkward. The underpants come up to the waist and the pants around the hips. Not very sexy-looking, but warm. LOL

  • me

    thicker pants too (moleskin) and flannel help.
    I am guy, and laugh if you may but i found by far the best long underwear when skiing is ballet tights for men -they fit much better, are thin and warm and the foot adds an extra bit of comfort.

  • Dan, I’m in Houston too, so I’ll let you in on the secret. The problem is neither Houston nor your wife — the problem is that you go outside! This is why you have air conditioning in your house and car. Outside is just to have a pretty view when you look out your window. 😀

  • I LOVE my CuddleDuds!! (and I’m always cold too, even living in Atlanta, so I have FINALLY learned to over-dress.

  • I too am always cold when other people around me are warm and I too just made a wonderful purchase: an electric bedpad! The bedpad was a bit pricy, but the amount of enjoyment and comfort I got out of it the first 3 nights was already worth the money. A queen-sized pad comes with two controllers so the person on the other side can turn their portion off.

  • Yes. Exactly! I re-discovered long underweary last week when I went East for a family visit.

  • Roxy

    I know I’m late on this but I needed to revisit this lesson. This is so true for me – sometimes I will agonize and complain over something for months, but when I take the time to identify the problem, the solution is obviously clear. Like today: I’m frustrated because I have a 3 month old who doesn’t sleep through the night yet and am up 5-6 times a night. Instead of blaming my husband who works for not waking up more often, I identified the problem: I need more sleep! Solution: don’t blame husband. Go to sleep earlier. This may mean that we get less ‘we’ time, but i’m willing to sacrifice this for sleep in the short term. Thanks again for this obvious but compelling lesson. It works for everything from buying long underwear to making a marriage better!

  • Vane

    If you are frustrated because your baby wakes you up multiple times during the night, you need to read “Baby Wise”.