Science of happiness

Anna Jastrzembska discusses how a brew brightens up your day

7th December 2015
Anna Jastrzembska discusses how a brew brightens up your day

Before you read on, put on a kettle and prepare your favourite mug. Chances are that your house is as freezing as mine and getting colder every day. There is little I can do about it, apart from cuddling up in a nest of blankets with a mug of hot tea. Unfortunately, scientifically speaking, that hot tea doesn’t do much to warm you up. It’s perfect to fight off the winter blues, though.

Scientists believe there is a link between temperature and emotions. The most interesting proof is that people who describe themselves as lonely, also report feeling colder. However, there have been more interesting experiments in the area. My favourite is when the researched were asked to hold a cup of drink (warm or hold), read about a fictional character (written in a neutral way), and then tell about their feelings about the character. If the drink was hot, they were more likely to describe the person as “warm.” In another experiment, participants were tricked into believing they were taking part into research of therapeutic pads, were asked to fill in the survey and then asked about their feelings about the research. As you probably can imagine, if they were holding a heating pad, their feelings were more positive than those who had a frozen pad.

“Doesn’t it make sense then, that the list of happiest countries strongly corresponds with the list of the biggest coffee consumers in the world? ”

What can we take out of these experiments? Well, most importantly, that the famous, immortal question of “do you want a cuppa?”(or, if you’re me, “do you want tea or coffee?”) when someone comes over, is one of the best ice-breakers ever. People tend to feel “warmer” towards you if you offer them a hot drink. It’s a good thing to remember if you’re planning to work with other people. Research proves that it’s especially good in business relations- being offered a cup of coffee instead of a cold glass of water makes an immense difference.

If you are a coffee addict like me, you need to know that it’s proven that coffee makes you happier. Drinking coffee regularly has been found to work as a mild anti-depressant and decreases risk committing suicide by fifty percent. Doesn’t it make sense then, that the list of happiest countries strongly corresponds with the list of the biggest coffee consumers in the world? It also works if you choose tea or chocolate with the same amount of caffeine as two cups of coffee. The secret is what I mentioned when talking about chocolate- caffeine releases the happy hormone dopamine. It does more than just that. Caffeine activates every reward system known in brain, making it work similar to drugs like marijuana. For all the tea-lovers out there, black and green teas  (especially matcha, gyokuro and anji bai cha) contain the amino acid theanine, which increases the number of inhibitory neurotransmitters and balance moods (calming us down and reducing anxiety), as well as releasing the happy hormones serotonin and dopamine.

It might be worth it, to leave tea and coffee for later in the day. The all-time king of warm first-thing-in-the-morning drinks is indisputably hot water with lemon and honey, especially on empty stomach after waking up. Name a positive health effect, and it has it. Apart from boosting your moods, it’s amazing for your liver (it stimulates release of enzymes to get rid of toxins), cleanses your blood vessels and arteries, relieves muscle and joint problems,  strengthens immune system, regulates digestion and metabolism, helps weight loss, hydrates your organism, lowers blood pressure, improves skin condition, is good for your nervous system and fights respiratory infections. If you are still not convinced, it has been found to reduce the risk of cancer and dementia. So, if you still haven’t done it, do your body a favour and drink that coffee now.

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