In the previous part of this article, we traced the practice of drinking tea for focus in ancient times. We talked about the connection between tea and mindfulness in China's most important spiritual denominations. Today, we'll explore the benefits of drinking tea with mindfulness, backed by science. We will also guide you through an exercise on how to drink tea for focus, ease anxiety, and enjoy stress-free mornings and positive and productive days! Grab a cup and dive in!
Drinking tea for focus: what does the science say
The second most popular beverage in the world, after water, is tea. You might have heard it is abundant in antioxidants and thus good for health. But today, we focus on L-Theanine, a special amino acid related to mindfulness. According to research, it might modify some aspects of human brain function. L-Theanine dramatically boosts alpha frequency band activity. That is a special kind of brainwave that soothes the mind without making you sleepy. L-Theanine is one of the reasons tea is known to promote a mindful state. It provides a flow of calm and steady energy without the coffee jitters.
Let's explore some of the benefits of L-Theanine for reducing stress and anxiety:
- Better focus
A study from 2012 backs the idea that drinking tea at work provides better concentration and mental clarity. According to it, people who took a dose of 100ml L-Theanine made fewer attention mistakes than the ones who didn't take it. That roughly equals 3 cups of tea.
- Better sleep
We already mentioned that L-Theanine has a direct impact on essential brain functions. One of them is the regulation of sleep. By relaxing the brain, L-Theanine promoted a better quality of sleep, as proven by yet another study from 2018.
- Reduced blood pressure
L-Theanine reduces stress and promotes relaxation. By that, it also lowers the heart rate, which leads to reduced blood pressure.
- Enhanced immune response
Some people fall ill more often than others, especially when the weather turns cold. Constant high stress levels weaken the immune system. This makes it more vulnerable to viruses, like the common flu. L-Theanine fights stress and anxiety, which leads to a better immune response.
- Better cognitive performance
Both a person's mental and physical health may improve by taking L-Theanine. A 2016 research notes it has neuroprotective benefits that enhance brain function.
L-Theanine on its own could enhance one's focus and response times. This effect is further enhanced when combined with caffeine. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it can keep us awake and attentive.
How to drink tea mindfully: a daily exercise
We don't have to live in ancient times or spend long years in remote temples to learn how to drink tea for focus (although it might be helpful :). Turning daily activities into mindful occupations is a relatively simple, time-effective solution to achieve a better focus and quiet our minds.
There is an old tale about Buddha and a laundress. Once, Buddha was sitting on a river bank. He saw a laundress carrying a load of dirty clothes to wash in the river's waters. She went to him and asked how she could achieve enlightenment. Buddha answered: "It's easy. When washing clothes, observe your hands."
Mindfulness is the idea that we need to focus on one thing at a time. In this way, we can declutter our minds from roaming thoughts. It will, in turn, bring us into a quiet yet alert state of calm focus. It's a state where we do not simply react to outer stimuli but rather contemplate the world around us without getting attached to it.
Ways to drink tea for focus
Let's talk about how we can turn tea drinking into a mindful activity and carve out time in this hectic life for an added dose of calm energy.
For many of you, tea drinking is probably a daily routine. If so, you're one step ahead – creating a mindful habit works best when you take a routine, repetitive task and focus exclusively on it for a certain time.
For those of you who are new to tea drinking, whether Gong Fu Cha style or the traditional Grandpa style, don't sweat it. Once you develop the habit of drinking tea for focus, you essentially are on the same path as the ancient sages we discussed above :)
The practice of drinking tea with mindfulness is also amazing for busy people. If you don't think you have time to meditate or practice mindfulness, just go about your daily tea mindfully. In this manner, you can practice mindfulness without actually carving out more time from your busy schedule (pssst – works with coffee too!)
- Give yourself some time for mental preparation
That applies to you especially if you're a morning tea drinker. Most of us are prone to the "achiever" attitude. We rush from one task to another, trying to tick them out of our schedule ASAP, which gives us a sense of achievement at the end of the day. You might be tempted to quickly drink your cup and mark the mindfulness task as complete. Instead, don't look at this as the first task to jump on in a long daily list when you wake up. Set five or ten minutes for your usual morning routine. Think about one or two most important tasks you need to do, and allow yourself to be fully awake before you go on with your day.
- Prepare your teaware
If you're a grandpa-style tea drinker, pick out your cup and kettle. If you prefer a Gong Fu style tea session, set your tea tray and arrange your preferred tea set on it. Go slowly through the process and observe it one item at a time. Allow yourself a minute to contemplate the result before you start brewing.
- Boil the water
Continue from where you left off. Put your kettle to boil and mindfully tune into the sound of heating water. You might notice subtle differences during the different stages of boiling. If you have a glass or transparent kettle, take advantage of it to observe the transformation of the bubbles and their dance in the water. Do they remind you of how the world prepares for a busy day?
- Pour the water
Slowly pour the water out of the kettle. Mindfully observe its flow. Feel this flow replicate within yourself, helping you reconnect with nature and your inner self.
After pouring the water, observe the way it winds and twirls inside your teapot or cup. Contemplate the dance of the tea leaves up and down. Observe how the tea soup changes color from light to dark. If you use milk, pour it slowly and mindfully observe the color changing back from dark to light.
Notice the smell and concentrate on it. It might remind you of fruits, flowers, or other objects of similar aroma. The smell might also evoke certain events or images in your mind. Let those come to you naturally, without effort. Do not abandon your mindful state; observe those and let them flow freely through your mind without reacting or getting attached to them.
Next, take a sip of your cup. Mindfully observe the mouthfeel, the flavor, and how your taste buds react to it. Try to focus on your hand gestures, the pickup, and put-down movements. Notice the sensation of the cup in your hand and how it feels to the touch. Be aware of your senses that take part in this tea ritual – awakening them is a great way to develop mindfulness.
When you drink tea with mindfulness, your thoughts will quiet down naturally, and your mind will slow down. It will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, eliminating stress and anxiety. It will also make you feel relaxed, putting you in a restful state.
Drinking tea for focus has the benefits of any meditative practice like Qi Gong or Yoga. It also enhances the mind-body connection, as you focus on your movements during the process. With the added benefits of L-Theanine and caffeine, you will naturally enter into a relaxed yet alert mode. It will provide a steady flow of focused energy, making you calm yet attentive and receptive to your surroundings. With time, you will be able to maintain this state for longer as you go about your day.