Coffee is awesome. It tastes good, keeps us alert, and is just really, really satisfying. But it's also a chemical stimulant (a drug, to be exact), which means coffee dependency is a very real phenomenon. The good news is, there are definitely ways to beat your coffee addiction that don't require a total lifestyle overhaul and may even make room for even more enjoyable daily rituals.
While coffee in and of itself isn't actually anything to be afraid of (some studies have actually linked 3-5 cups a day to longer and healthier lives), it can definitely cause problems if we're overly dependent on it. Other studies have linked it to sleep problems and significant disruptive effects in our sleep patterns if drank too soon before bed. Not to mention, the average American spends $1,100 on coffee every year (and that's only an average, meaning some of us spend way more). Not to mention, according to Healthline.com, coffee is one of the major contributors to stained teeth.
Basically, while coffee is in no way the devil drink some people make it out to be, it's definitely not something we should abuse, and it definitely isn't something we want to ever feel completely dependent on. I like to think of it kind of like potato chips; I love them and enjoy them, but I never need them to function, and that's the way I like it.
If you've started to find that coffee has become your master, here are seven tips for kicking your addiction to the curb:
1. Replace The Habit
On his website, life coach and behavioral expert James Clear noted that, in general, we never truly eliminate something unhealthy from our lives, but rather replace it with something better for us — and this isn't a bad thing. In the case of coffee specifically, I find that a huge part of what I love about it is the ritual. I always look forward to getting up and making something warm to hold and sip, as well as taking a break from work to make a cup. If you can relate, try swapping out most of your daily cups of coffee with an herbal tea you enjoy. It will maintain the positives of the ritual without the negative side effects.
2. Alternate With Water
In a piece for SFgate, sports medicine writer Jan Annigan suggested alternating every caffeinated drink you have each day with a glass of water, and this would definitely include coffee. The simple act of not going directly for another cup of java right after you finish one will instantly cut your coffee intake by half, and odds are you won't even notice.
3. Gradually Phase It Out
As stated in a Johns Hopkins study, caffeine withdrawal can seriously mess you up, so don't feel pressure to quit all at once. In an interview with Health, registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet Keri Gans recommends alternating your regular cups of coffee with decaf. Then, once you've totally transitioned to decaf (which also contains some caffeine), Gans says to alternate the decaf with a caffeine-free herbal tea until you're off caffeine completely.
4. Give Yourself A Time Limit
As you begin the caffeine detox process, nutrition expert Chris Daniels recommends setting up a time of day when you will absolutely stop drinking coffee, and setting that time back an hour week by week. He also suggests keeping a water bottle by you at all times so you are less tempted to drink coffee just for the sake of drinking something.
5. Read Labels
According to U.S. News and World Report, there is hidden caffeine in a ton of foods, such as chocolate, gum, and certain over-the-counter medications, especially those aimed at easing the effects of migraines. Make sure you're reading labels to know exactly where your caffeine is coming from! Otherwise you could be undermining the whole point of your coffee hiatus.
6. Keep Tylenol Handy
Tylenol Extra Strength, $3.99, Target.com
In a piece for Health.com on ways to kick your coffee habit, Robynne Chutkan, MD, assistant professor in gastroenterology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C, recommended always having some Tylenol on hand, as the reality is caffeine withdrawal can cause a pretty massive headache. She also noted that Tylenol is generally your best bet over other pain relievers, as "if you're prone to acid reflux, taking a lot of aspirin or ibuprofen can make it worse."
7. Get Moving
I know — this isn't really a fun suggestion (especially if you hate working out as much as I do). But if you're really serious about cutting coffee from your life, increased physical activity will do an awesome job of increasing your overall energy levels. In that same Health.com piece, Gans said, "Exercise is a natural high. You get energy simply from exercising." Try kicking your morning off with a power walk, or make an effort to walk or bike to work if possible — you'll likely notice you're more energized without the help of caffeine.
Cutting coffee is hard, but it's not as hard as you probably think. Start swapping out your daily cups with other healthier beverages and just be conscious of the time of day you're drinking it, and you'll already be halfway there.
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