My first pass at quitting coffee was painful because the headaches were just grueling. Honestly, it took three days before I could even think again. I don’t recommend the three days of headaches — but at least it helped me stand strong in the presence of coffee, because I simply did not want to go through that again.
I now very rarely have coffee, and when I do it's mostly just one sip when the smell gets me. Yes, I still love the smell, the ritual, and the coffee culture — but I love myself more, and that keeps me drinking tea instead.
For the most part, I've replaced coffee with a few cups of green tea. It also has caffeine, but I feel much more calm and able to focus with it (the coffee overstimulated me to the point at which I felt disoriented).
Without coffee, my digestive system feels healthier, and I also find I handle stress and anxiety much better than before. I love that I no longer need something to help me chill after a busy day. Overall, I'm so happy I managed to quit my coffee habit.
If you're also looking to cut back or quit coffee altogether, here's what I recommend doing:
1. Don’t quit cold turkey.
This will never work because your headaches will be extreme, and detoxing will be too much for your body to handle. (I know this because I lived it!)
Instead, switch to black and green tea slowly so you'll still get some caffeine but without the jolt. And drink lots of water while you gradually step it down, to help manage the headaches.
2. Create a (coffee-free) morning ritual.
Many of our addictions are actually more about habit than physical addiction. Sure, caffeine is addictive in itself, but for most of us, it's far more about the enjoyment of the experience.
So, instead of completely cutting out your ritual and depriving yourself, I recommend starting a new ritual that feels just as good.
For example, I replaced my morning coffee ritual with a good teapot, new teacups, and loose tea. Simply dunking a teabag in a mug was not doing it for me because it was the ritual I was really craving. I wanted to continue to practice that morning ritual of making myself a pot of something hot, aromatic, and tasty.
3. Make coffee a mindful treat.
If you're trying to limit your intake of coffee, I recommend practicing mindfulness as a way to turn your cup into a special treat instead of a permanent fixture in your hand.
Every time you drink coffee, take a "time-out" so you actually consciously enjoy it. Research shows that breathing smoothly and consuming food slowly and consciously makes people enjoy food more and helps them consume less.
4. Know your triggers.
This is often the hardest part of changing a habit since cues are one of the most powerful aspects of automatic behaviors. But research shows that becoming mindful of our triggers helps us navigate our options and make better choices.
For example, my triggers (still) are: smelling the coffee, seeing people hanging out in a café, thinking about Paris, and being really tired and exhausted.
The allure of getting the jolt from coffee is certainly there — but knowing the aftereffect keeps me choosing tea instead.
5. Stay positive.
Instead of focusing on how you're trying to avoid coffee, put your attention on why you want to change your habit. Remind yourself how it makes you feel more calm, in charge, and much more nourished.