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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Your morning coffee or tea linked to happiness?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 12th 2009

two coffeesMillions of people look forward to that hot cup of coffee or tea in the morning. There's something about it that just seems to feel comfortable and even the thought of it may make us feel good. Can it help alleviate stress, anxiety and depression?

Researchers out of Yale University recently conducted a study to find out the simple answer to the question: How does holding something warm affect the way we see life? They split undergraduate participants into two groups with one group hold a cup of hot coffee and the other holding a cold cup of coffee. They then asked each group to say what they thought of a fictitious person. Drum roll....they found that those who held the warm cup actually saw the person as happier, friendlier, and generous.

So what does this mean to us?

Whether you are a coffee or tea drinker or not, this study invites us to consider how our senses may affect our mood and outlook on life. While this study focused on the feeling of warmth, I would argue that the various sensations we take in day in and day out all have an effect on how we feel. However, we often lose sight of our senses as we go through our day with our minds one step ahead of us thinking of what we need to do next. We're actually hardly ever present to what we are sensing as life becomes routine and we lose that sense of wonder we had as a child. Children can be great teachers of really being with whatever they are paying attention to.

Knowing now that what we take in through our senses affects the way we see and feel about life, now is our chance to become more aware and intentionally pay attention to what we are ingesting. Instead of thinking of all the things we need to do today, take a moment to deliberately choose to hold that warm cup and attend to how it makes your hands feel and the thoughts and emotions that arise alongside it. While still being aware of what is going on in the world, choose to turn the news off if your eyes and ears are becoming overwhelmed with trauma. Sometimes putting on your favorite music can be comforting to the ears and mind or the smell of a rose can elicit relaxation and even a smile. 

Whatever you are struggling with today, try a little experiment. Bring more mindfulness to your senses and see how it affects you. As always, don't take my word for it, try it out for yourself. The proof is in the pudding.

Please share below any insights you have about this blog or anything you notice in response to your own senses. You have a living wisdom that so many can benefit from.


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

agreed - - May 17th 2010

Starting the day with something soothing is very helpful for me, however it is the sensory experience, as mentioned in the article, of the warmth experienced felt from the coffee and the stimulant from the caffeine that i believe puts me at a balance that allows me to feel ready for the rest of the day. Im in grad school for sport and exercise psych right now and for me personally, It helps me find my optimal alertness for performing at my best. Similar to an inverted U theory of arousal regulation in sport:) Now...if only everyone responded to coffee in the same way...hmmm:)

Soothe your way into the day - Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. - Jan 15th 2009
I agree that starting your day with something soothing can be a real help during the rest of the day. For some that will be a cup of tea, for others some music, and yet for others just silently sitting in a space of awareness watching thoughts, feelings, and emotions come and go like clouds or sometimes storms to a sky. Whatever it is for each of us, finding ways to elicit this feeling or come back to this space a few times throughout the day could be really beneficial. Thank you so much for your thoughts! 

True...I agree - - Jan 14th 2009

That's interesting JR. You appear to be coming from a yogi or meditation perspective. Am I right? I took many yoga and meditation classes in college and I must say that I had a very hard time during those semesters when my yoga instructor would play nothing, and have us simply sit in silence. Every stressful thought and negative emotion would come to mind without me having something to detract from that moment such as music.

You're right...silence can indeed be distracting, espeically when you have so many negative things on your mind. Music can also be distracting but in a good way. It can facilitate your entry into a peaceful frame of mind.

Take care


Zen is Here, Zen is Now ? - JR - Jan 13th 2009

Yes, but it is rather difficult to deal with "this transitory life" without "inclining" all over the place.  I suppose I will just have to keep working at it.

For myself, I find it difficult to work without some positive sensory background - music, speech radio (heard rather than really listened to) and sometimes incense.  I actually find silence distracting.  Is this a common experience ?

One lesson I do draw from this - it is a Bad Idea to let your tea go cold ...

Best regards,


Perhaps there is a connection! - - Jan 13th 2009

As strange as it might sound, there could very well be a connection between our morning tea (or coffee) and happiness. While I can't fathom coffee brining happiness beause of its effects on the nervious system, I do believe morning tea is more based on our senses than simply the drink we are consuming. As an undergraduate student I would go to Starbucks and purchase their "Passion" tea or any of their herbal teas and go and study in between classes. While doing this I began to notice how less stressed I would become and how my day appeared to get easier because I was relaxed. This could have been due to simply the herbal tea effect, but I contributed this calm feeling also to my senses. I had something hot during what seems to be the busiest time of the day, that is, the morning hours. 

Just drinking something warm during such hectic hours put me in a mental state of calm, therefore, I was capable of handling whatever followed. Coffee, on the other hand, well...lets just say I've seen many consume that and need herbal tea later!


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