Quitting Coffee? 11 Healthy Ways to Start Your Day

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An estimated 83 percent of American adults drink coffee—most on a daily basis. In fact, we love coffee so much that we spend $40 billion on it every year! And yet, quitting coffee consistently remains among the top New Year’s resolutions.

Whether you intend to kick the habit for good, or simply take a break, these suggestions will help you face the day without coffee

1. Work Out When You Wake Up

From counteracting feelings of stress and normalizing sleep patterns to improving your mood, working out in the morning releases endorphins that make you feel energized and starts the day on a positive, healthy note.

Put It into Practice: Keep yourself accountable by signing up for a class or working out with a friend.

2. Go Outside

Not the morning workout type? Consider incorporating a short walk into your routine. A University of Georgia study found that low-intensity exercise like walking for 20 minutes reduced feelings of fatigue by 65 percent. In addition, being exposed to sunlight early in the day helps set your circadian rhythm, making you feel more alert.

Put It into Practice: Set out your clothes and shoes at night, so you can get up and go in the morning.

3. Eat Smart

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but what you eat matters just as much. Karyn Duggan, CNC, recommends a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates (PFC). Why? Your body converts carbs into energy right away, while protein and fats take longer to digest; breakfasts based on the PFC formula gives your body an immediate boost, plus long-lasting energy.

Put It into Practice: Experiment with healthy combinations like almond butter on whole-grain toast or a fresh spinach, flaxseed, and avocado smoothie.

4. Drink Up

Proper hydration after a night of rest is key. A small study published in the Journal of Nutrition investigating the effect of mild dehydration on mood and cognitive abilities found that participants reported symptoms including headache, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and low mood. Sound familiar? These symptoms are also tied to caffeine withdrawal. So if you’re serious about quitting coffee, swap it for water in the morning, and see if it helps.

Put It into Practice: Drink at least eight ounces of water upon waking. If plain water is too boring, muddle refreshing ingredients like cucumber, mint, and lime and add ice water, or try hot water with lemon.

5. Try Tea Instead

Switching from coffee to tea can be a gentle introduction to stepping down your caffeine intake; most teas contain less caffeine than coffee, although the levels depend upon the varietal and brewing practices. If you’re ready to omit caffeine altogether, try a cup of herbal tea to replace your morning coffee habit.

Put It into Practice:

  • Switch to green tea, which contains about half the caffeine of coffee and boasts many health benefits.
  • Brew a cup of tulsi, an antioxidant-rich herb that may be linked to favorable outcomes for stress and anxiety.

6. Consider Coffee Alternatives

If you’re really hooked on your morning coffee, cutting it out completely probably feels like a tall order. A hot brewed beverage—with or without caffeine—that’s a bit more coffee-like might help ease the transition.

Put It into Practice:

  • Try chicory, a root with an earthy flavor that is dried, cut, and brewed like coffee (and has a similar mild laxative effect). Dandy Blend is a popular caffeine-free coffee substitute made from dandelion, barley, rye, and chicory and beet roots.
  • Scale back on caffeine with mate—made from the stems and leaves of the yerba mate plant—which contains some naturally occurring caffeine (typically a bit less than coffee).

7. Turn on the Tunes

Listening to upbeat music in the morning can help provide motivation to get moving. Researchers at the University of Missouri say it can also improve your mood.

Put It into Practice: Build favorite playlists, or use apps like Pandora or Spotify to discover new music that makes you happy.

8. Keep a Stress Journal

Research suggests a strong positive correlation between expressive writing and improved physical and emotional health—in particular for relieving stress. Some long-term health benefits include: fewer stress-related doctor visits; fewer sick days; improved immune function; reduced blood pressure; and improved mood and memory.

Put It into Practice: Use an app like Day One, OnePad, or Gratitude Journal—or go old-school and keep a notebook and pen next to your bed—and make journaling part of your morning routine.

9. Stretch Yourself

Whether you incorporate just a few simple stretches into your morning routine, or commit to a dedicated yoga session, stretching first thing helps you wake up by getting your blood flowing and warming your muscles.

Put It into Practice: Keep a yoga mat handy and stretch on your own, or experiment with apps like Daily Yoga, Pocket Yoga, and Yoga.com to get started.

10. Master Morning Meditation

Spend the time you’ll save every morning brewing or buying coffee wisely. In addition to helping reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, meditation helps you start the day in a calm, relaxed state that can better prepare you to deal with challenging situations.

Put It into Practice: Set aside 10 minutes for a morning meditation and set an intention for the day. If you’re new to the practice, try meditation apps.

11. Create a Routine and Stick to It

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg examines how habits work—and how to break them by adjusting your routine. Start with a few nighttime rituals that will help you wind down, get a good night’s sleep, and start your morning refreshed.

Put It into Practice:

  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Shun screen time. Shut down electronics at least an hour before bed.
  • Get enough sleep. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours a night.
  • Do the same thing every day. For your routine to stick, do it daily, including weekends.

Be Prepared for Bumps

Even if you only have a cup a day, quitting coffee isn’t easy, especially if it’s a longtime habit. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms including headache, fatigue, irritability, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating are more likely to occur when you quit cold turkey, but these symptoms are transient, peaking around one or two days, and subsiding after a week or so. If you experience discomfort, consider tapering your intake slowly over a week; use acetaminophen as needed; stay hydrated; and substitute green tea for coffee toward the end of the week.

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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. The One Medical Group entities and 1Life Healthcare, Inc. make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.

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