After an experiment to readjust my own caffeine addiction, I realised that without the need for going cold turkey and giving it up completely, there are a few simple things we can all do to reap the benefits of caffeine use.
Here are my top five – and the most surprising thing I learned during my month without caffeine.
- Avoid caffeine as your first drink of the day.
The most common use of caffeine is for that first-thing boost to help us shake the sleep and get ready for the day, but it comes with its problems. It takes 30-60 minutes for that caffeine to hit its peak in your bloodstream, so the immediate effects aren’t as great as you might think. We also wake up dehydrated – drinking water to rehydrate does more for alertness and comes with lots of other health benefits. Aim for a pint of water to kickstart your day in a far better way.
- Make caffeine a tool, not a habit.
Using caffeine this way keeps you mindful of your intake, prevents over-consumption and the side effects that brings, as well as regulating the caffeine supply in your bloodstream. It will definitely help you work better.Drinking caffeine at certain times during the day out of habit, just isn’t the most productive way to do it. Use the positive impact caffeine provides in mental focus and physical performance strategically by consuming caffeine when you need it. Around 45 minutes before exercise or an interview is a great rule.
- Find Alternatives to Caffeine.
By doing this, you’ll drink less caffeine and improve your sleep too. Replace at least one caffeinated drink in your day and stop drinking caffeine after 6pm. Just doing these things will positively change your relationship with it. Redbush tea and other herbal infusions are naturally caffeine-free, so there are options. Decaffeinated tea and coffee are fine, but they still contain traces and it’s worth remembering the products are processed to remove the caffeine.
- Be Aware of the Source.
Be selective about where you get your caffeine intake from. Avoid getting your caffeine from energy drinks and colas which are laden with sugar, artificial sweeteners and other synthetic ingredients that can adversely affect your health. You get as much caffeine from coffee – which is natural and contains beneficial properties. Short-term, the peaks and crashes that hits of sugar and caffeine in your bloodstream create affect your mental and physical performance. For long-term implications, take a look here.
- Enjoy Caffeine for What it Is.
As long as you’re doing that, just enjoy the positive feelings caffeine can create and the taste of the drinks. Leisurely caffeine intake from an enjoyable source beats swallowing a handful of Pro Plus any day!Everything in moderation is a great rule for life. Consuming too much water can kill us, so don’t get too hung up on creating rules and structures around your caffeine intake. Be mindful of the amount you consume and listen to your body. You’ll know when you’ve taken too much on board.
Unexpected learning: Caffeine Stifles Creativity.
Despite improving cognitive focus, caffeine actually inhibits our ability to be creative. Creative thinking comes from taking alternative perspectives and allowing the mind to wander. Put simply, caffeine keeps the mind fixed and stops it wandering. Great for concentration, not for creativity.
Read this interesting piece from The New Yorker for more on how caffeine affects creativity.
Thinking about changing your relationship with caffeine? Read about what happened when I gave up caffeine for a month.