Say whaaaaaa??? Yep, you read right. I decided that after drinking coffee (just coffee - I avoid soda) consistently since the age of 18, it was probably time for me to give it a rest for awhile. Don't get me wrong, I love the stuff - but the more I thought about it, the more I disliked the idea of being dependent on caffeine. Plus, I was so used to it that I'd sometimes drink multiple - like 4 or 5 - cups a day. Yikes! I realized that I wasn't getting any particular stimulation from the caffeine anymore, but rather using it to ward off feelings of tiredness or headaches that would let me know it was time to have more. The more I dwelled on my habit, the more I realized it was a really backwards way of approaching something I used to enjoy more.
All of this serious thinking led me to do some research about caffeine, and while I found some studies that linked coffee to health benefits, I decided they simply weren't enough for me to continue drinking caffeine the way I had been.
My goal is to break my caffeine addiction and sort of re-train my brain to think of caffeine as a once weekly indulgence - something to be savored after a meal or with a leisurely breakfast - and not part of a daily habit that I 'need' to get going.
Here's what I've learned about myself and my caffeine habit:
- I strongly dislike the idea of being hooked on something, or something having so much control over me. While many people think caffeine's no big deal, and its health benefits have even been touted, I don't want to feel like I must consume a substance on a daily basis to function normally (food and water notwithstanding).
- My body was really, really addicted to caffeine. The first week was not fun. In combination with my 12-hour jet lag from Mongolia, I was pretty down in the dumps. I wouldn't recommend cutting out caffeine while your body's trying to recover from something else. My reasoning was that I hadn't had nearly as much caffeine on my trip, so thought it was a great time to wean myself off of it. Not only did I have some terrible headaches, but I also spent the week depressed, majorly tired, irritable (as my poor boyfriend can attest) and never feeling like I could sleep enough. By which I mean I came home from work, faceplanted on my bed at about 7 pm, and didn't wake up until morning. I wasn't at my sharpest, to say the least!
- My body was also going through some pretty dramatic highs and lows when I routinely had 2 or more coffees a day. Caffeine sets off a stress response in our bodies, and I've got enough stress as it is! Being caffeine-free during the day has definitely helped my levels of stress. I rarely get that adrenaline-pumping-through-my-veins feeling anymore, and it's made me much more balanced and focused in a calm way, not a frenetic one.
- It made me really indignant to think about the fact that I, and lots of other people I know, simply kept drinking caffeine to avoid having a terrible headache. That's not a good reason! I wanted to remember what it was like to have a day free of stimulants - a totally normal day with just me, my body, and its natural self.
- Not having caffeine to depend on as an energy boost (then crash) has led me to make healthier daily decisions. When I'm well-rested and fueling my body with nutritious, delicious foods and plenty of water, I don't need caffeine to have energy.
- I realized that for me, daily coffee was all about the ritual. The first few days, I really missed the feeling of walking to work with my coffee in hand, sipping as I made my way there. So I started walking with my Lifefactory glass water bottle in hand, and realized my emotional attachment wasn't to coffee itself - it was to the routine.
In recent years, I've learned a lot about myself as I made small changes in my eating choices and beauty routine. At first, I had a lot of internal angst about the "loss" of these things which had become so familiar to me. "I can't ditch this poisonous lipstick because it's my faaaavorite color!" or "But Tide detergent reminds me of how my laundry smelled in childhood, and I'm really going to miss that!" I was attached to all of this stuff that wasn't doing anything good for me and that was getting in the way of better decisions for myself. Turned out, once I get used to a new way of thinking about something, I'm totally fine and focused on what I've gained from the change.
- I appreciate coffee way more when it's an occasional treat. For example, in the first two weeks of giving up the habit, I allowed myself one small coffee on the weekend. Treating myself with just one coffee a week or biweekly will both allow me to enjoy it more and won't be addicting.
So far, I've only got good things to say about giving up the caffeine habit. I definitely appreciate my new outlook on life.
What about you? Would you ever give up your morning cup?