We Brits love our tea. Its estimated that in the UK we get through a staggering 165 million cups a day!
A cup of tea can be restorative, can pick you up after a shock, can soothe a troubled day. Research has discovered a plethora of health benefits of drinking tea, from its antioxidant properties to its ability to hydrate. Its little wonder it has become part of our cultural identity.
But beyond its role as a national streiotype what if I told you that taking one cup of tea each day could reduce your stress levels, make you feel less emotional and more in control, improve your working memory and give you more mental clarity.
I'm not about to expose some newly discovered berry or leaf from far off lands with super powers. In fact it can be any cuppa of your choice and still have the same amazing effect.
I'm talking about having a Mindful Cup of Tea.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
I'm sure you will all be aware of Mindfulness, it has become a very popular topic in recent years selling millions of books, CD's and Apps each year. But Mindfulness is no fad. Derived from ancient Buddhist meditation, in the 1970's a scientist called Jon Kabit-Zin developed Mindful Based Stress Reduction technique based on the principle of being in the present moment, not worrying about the past or the future, but consciously connecting with the present moment.
Too often in today's modern life the constant pressures seem to force us into an auto pilot mode. There is so much to do, so many demands on our time, we have become quite adept at multi tasking. Even reading this blog post you may be keeping one eye on your email inbox, compiling your shopping list, thinking about a task you need to complete later today. We are constantly "ON". Over time this takes its toll on our health and wellbeing, both mentally, physically and emotionally.
Mindfulness is the perfect antidote to the pressure of modern life, it is a way of pressing the STOP button, of resetting the relaxation response. Repeated studies have shown that Mindfulness can rewire how the brian responds to stress.
Mindfulness In Practice
One of the great things about Mindfulness is how accessible and easy it is to practice. You don't need special clothing, a special room, there are no special magic words or incantations. What you do need is an open mind, a desire to change your current coping strategies and the commitment to practice. Because heres the thing, Mindfulness is both astonishingly simple and, for most of us who live in our heads, very difficult. At first Mindfulness can seem elusive and down right tricksy, we are creatures driven by the desire to succeed and get stuff right. Mindfulness isn't a tangible and specific skill like driving a car or learning an instrument. Rather its personal and only you can be the judge of how effective your practice is.
Mindfulness practice is immensely rewarding, as plenty of people are discovering. I would argue that it is probably the most important life skill that any of us can learn to help us to cope with the stresses of modern living.
To help gain the Mindfulness Stress Reduction benefits it helps to have some practical techniques to help you to incorporate it into everyday life, that way you can quickly and easily see and feel the benefits. Then you can build out from one practice to bigger and more powerful techniques.
One of the Daily Mindful Practices we adopt at The Body Retreat is The Mindful Cup of Tea. Almost everyone takes a hot drink of some kind during their day. This simple technique takes something mundane and transforms it to become something truly restorative and relaxing.
Mindful Tea for Stress Reduction
This exercise takes something that is generally done on autopilot and brings it firmly into the present moment. Such a simple exercise but it bring benefits fast.
- Sit down with your tea, do not drink it on the run, standing at the kitchen counter or in the car. You want to give your whole attention now.
- Take three long slow deep breaths and relax.
- Before you pick up the cup and rink it, really look at it. Notice the glass, cup or mug. Notice how the light reflects off it. Notice if there is steam rising, or ripples form having just stirred the tea. Notice the colour, the individual tones.
- Now, pick up the cup and notice the tactile feel of the cup in your hands. Does it feel warm or cool to the touch, how heavy is it. Is the cup textures or smooth.
- Next smell your drink. Spend a moment allowing the smell to fill your awareness.
- As you now start to drink, take small sips of your tea. Allow yourself to really taste it. Experience the sensation on your tongue and taste buds, as you gently swallow hear the sound.
- As you continue to drink you tea, be fully present with your tea. If you mind wanders off before the drink is finished, simply acknowledge that your mind has wandered, and just bring it back to the feeling, smells, tastes and sensations of drinking this cup of tea.
Once you have got used to Mindful Tea Drinking any cup of tea that you have becomes an automatic unconscious anchor to help you to remember to be mindful, to relax and be calm.
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