“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.” ~Sharon Salzberg
As a Brit, I do what we British people do best: drink tea. Lots of it.
I’ve drunk a cup of tea every morning since I was a chubby-faced teenager.
I used to think tea was the best thing ever, that friendly little cup of brew that’s always there for you, reminding you to take a moment to chill. But it turns out that mindfully drinking a cup of tea is so much better. Not only does it make me enjoy my tea more, it has utterly redefined my mornings and even cured my morning anxiety.
Morning anxiety is marked by an adrenaline rush, racing hart, heightened blood pressure, worry, edginess, and fatigue even though you’ve only just gotten out of bed.
I used to feel anxious most mornings and it set the tone for the rest of my day. When I woke up my mind would already be full of ideas about what I had to do that day, worry that I wouldn’t get it all done, and a constant feeling of being rushed, which made it all but impossible to sit and just be.
I was sick of waking up either stressed or anxious, so I decided to change my morning habits to put me in the right state of mind for the day ahead.
I knew I didn’t want to do anything challenging, like yoga or a deep meditation technique, because I personally believe the morning should be relaxed and easy so that the mind and body have time to wake up gently before getting into work.
So I decided to do something very easy but also very positive: turn my regular morning brew into an experience in mindfulness. And it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
When you’re trying to develop mindful habits, it’s best to focus on the things you already do routinely every day.
For instance, if you walk to work you can start Zen walking, which is essentially walking while being mindful of the movement in your feet and legs.
Or, if you take the bus, you can sit on the bus and meditate on your breath—something I used to do twice a day every day.
Other examples include mindful showering, meditating while doing the dishes, or even mindful listening (meditating on the sound of the other person’s voice while you’re listening to them).
When you turn everyday tasks into mindful activities, you cultivate the habit of mindfulness. That’s why my mindful-morning-tea was such a good idea—because I do it every day.
It’s a wonderful little mindful-habit that I’ve developed for myself. Because I now automatically drink my tea mindfully, without even thinking about it. That’s a precious ten minutes every morning to overcome my anxiety and set a more positive tone for the rest of the day.
Another wonderful thing about these mindful habits is that they are great for busy people. If you think you don’t have the time to meditate or be mindful, simply do what you do anyway but in a mindful way. That way, you can squeeze in your mindfulness without actually investing your time into it [here are some more great mindfulness tips for busy people].
Let me show you how to do it. And don’t sweat, if you’re one of those weird people who thinks that coffee is better than tea (pah!) you can also use this mindfulness exercise when drinking your Nescafe.
How To Drink Tea Mindfully In the Morning
I’ve learned that when I first wake up, I need to take at least five to ten minutes to just generally get up, waken my mind, and, you know, yawn and do other morning things. You won’t want to start being mindfully immediately because your mind probably won’t be fully conscious the moment you get out of bed. So, before drinking your morning brew give yourself a few minutes just to wake up.
Once you’re properly awake, start making tea as you usually would: take out your cup, deposit a tea bag in it, and fill the kettle.
Then turn the kettle on and mindfully tune into the sound of the water as it heats. I find that meditating on the process of the water heating in the kettle actually helps me wake up—something about that water becoming enlivened makes my mind become enlivened as well; those little bubbles getting ever more excited and lively, it’s the perfect metaphor for the start of a busy day.
Once the kettle has boiled, slowly put the water in the cup. I like to pour the water slowly out of the kettle and notice how freely water flows. I actually meditate on flowing water regularly because it helps me to reconnect with nature and feel that same sense of flow in my own being.
Once the cup is full, mindfully observe how the water changes color from light to dark. I like to take a little sip of the tea black before putting the milk in, and meditate on that rich flavor, which I find truly invigorating for the taste-buds.
Next, take out whatever type of milk you use (I personally dig Almond milk). Slowly pour the milk into the cup and observe the graduation of color from black to brown. I find that observing how the tea turns from dark to light reminds me of the rising sun in the early morning, and the light beginning to spread over the world as the lightness develops in my tea.
Now you’re ready to drink your brew. Make sure you drink it slowly. If it has an aroma, mindfully observe that scent before you take your first sip. This will awaken your sense of smell (and awakening the senses is a wonderful way to develop mindfulness). Then gradually, slowly, drink your cup of tea, taking your time to be aware of the different senses involved, such as the warm feeling of the tea in your mouth, and the flavor.
I personally like to drink my tea with my eyes closed, taking the occasional mindful breath to help myself achieve that “restful but awake” state of mind.
In all, it should take approximately ten minutes to finish your drink. That’s ten minutes of morning meditation that will awaken your mind and help you to focus—a perfect mental state for the morning.
The good thing about this practice is that it gives you almost all the same benefits of general mindfulness. If you drink your tea meditatively, you will naturally slow your mind and enter that restful state where your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and you feel relaxed.
Plus, by being mindful of your movements while you make the brew, you will enhance your mind-body connection (all mindful movement enhances mind-body connection, not just yoga and tai chi). And making and drinking tea awakens all five senses, which is one of the fundamental aspects of mindfulness.
It’s always worth remembering that mindfulness doesn’t have to include meditation. You can be mindful while doing practically anything. And if you don’t happen to drink warm beverages in the morning, you can always follow the same process while drinking water or orange juice, or by eating a mindful breakfast.
All the matters is that you find one morning routine that you do every day and use it as a mindfulness-activity. This will train your mind to be mindful in the morning so you relax when you get out of bed.
I’ve personally found that by drinking my morning tea slowly and mindfully, I dispel my morning anxiety, I focus my mind, and I establish a positive mindset that helps me have an enjoyable and productive day.
About Paul Harrison
Paul Harrison is a meditation teacher in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and the creator of TheDailyMeditation.com—trusted source for mindfulness and meditation. You can subscribe to TheDailyMeditation’s newsletter here.