Benefits of Coffee

Can Coffee Help Stress?

According to scientific research, the answer is yes! There have been many studies that show caffeine stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which produces the euphoria and pleasant feelings that we get from coffee. Additionally, the increase of dopamine levels in your brain can make you feel more awake and energized and stimulates the central nervous system. This primes the body and mind to be alert and focus on the task at hand. Likewise, previous research has also shown that coffee can assist in preventing depression among other positive effects of caffeine.

But what about stress?

Peter Kinderman, Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Liverpool, presented the first study that uncovered the neurochemical pathways that enable caffeine to prevent some of the negative effects of stress on the brain. So, in addition to stimulating the release of dopamine, caffeine also inhibits receptors in the brain for the chemical adenosine. Researchers found that these receptors control the negative effects of chronic stress and when blocked, stress-induced behavior can be reversed. In addition to caffeine’s effect on brain chemistry, how else can you up-level your morning coffee and turn it into a stress reliever? The first suggestion is to add other stress-relieving ingredients to your morning cup.
  • Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, but it has also been shown to be helpful against occasional anxiety. Pairing it with a 1/20 of a teaspoon of pepper makes it even more beneficial, if you can handle the extra spice in your cup of Joe.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, raw cacao nibs, or 70% or darker dark chocolate is a great addition to your stress relieving recipe! Some studies suggest that flavonoids found in cocoa contain mood-boosting and cognitive supporting properties, and who doesn’t like a little cocoa in the cup?
  • Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which are herbs that have been talked about over the last few years as something to help the body manage stress. It has been popular as an ingredient in smoothies, so why not add Ashwgandha powder to your coffee too!
  • Last but not least is cinnamon. Many coffee drinkers already use it as a tasty addition to a latte, but it is also a stress-reducing ingredient that’s been shown to contain anti-inflammatory properties, metabolism and blood sugar support, as well as help your mood!
Behaviors around your coffee drinking can also help to reduce stress.
  • Take a coffee break! Taking 10 minutes for yourself sometime during your busy day gives your mind and body time to de-stress, relax your heart rate, and calm your mind. Taking this break out in the garden or on the patio, or somewhere peaceful away from your work space can help you avoid distractions.
  • Meditate during your coffee break. If you are someone who likes to meditate but you find it hard to work it into your daily routine, try doing it on your coffee break. Use the time with your cup of Joe to relax and reflect. When you find a place away from your work space to do this, you won’t be distracted by your emails or to-do lists and you can reflect on deeper, happier, more meaningful things!
  • Don’t underestimate the power of smelling that heavenly coffee aroma! Scientists at Seoul National University have found that simply smelling coffee can bring antioxidant benefits and brain changes that promote calmness. So sit back and smell the coffee! You can even try placing an open jar of freshly roasted coffee beans on your desk or work space to bring you calming effects while you work.
  • If you’re not the “alone-time” type, you can always meet up with friends for your coffee break. Spending a few quality minutes with a friend, catching up, and having a good laugh is always a great way to take a load off your shoulders and help you relax.
Vishakha Shivdasani M.D. who is based out of Mumbai, recommends only two cups of coffee a day, early in the day. Shivdasani says you should stop drinking caffeinated coffee by about 2pm because it will remain as a stimulant in your bloodstream for about 8-10 hours. By ending your caffeine intake by mid-afternoon, you can get all the benefits coffee provides and still go to sleep at night. However, switching to decaf and adding some of the previously mentioned ingredients or behaviors can still contribute to a stress relieving routine.

About Kelly

Kelly Abbott, an SCA-trained Coffee Professional and certified Q-Grader, is the Owner, Roaster, and CEO of Unleashed Coffee. High quality, sustainable specialty grade coffee at a fair price is her passion.

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