Oh, hello November.
Hello long nights, short days, low energy, lethargy and all the other fun things that grace my doorstep once Winter sets in…
Christmas is beckoning but it’s just a bit too far away to provide any real excitement and Autumn has well and truly packed up and toddled off. So here we are, in inbetweeny land, with cold winds, chapped cuticles, low motivation and a good few weeks before I can legitimately chomp through a packet of mince pies to cheer myself up.
Does anyone else feel a bit sluggish right now? Like you’re trying to walk uphill through porridge… or swimming through custard… or other school dinner analogies…
You may remember a blog post I wrote some weeks ago, all about the power of tea and the art of Sophrology, which was inspired by a report put together by the Tea Advisory Panel – TAP. If you missed it, it’s here. And I’m going to draw upon a couple of important points from it now, to harness the power of both tea and Sophrology and get us all through the Winter, unscathed and bright as buttons.
As a brief reminder, Sophrology uniquely combines Western science and Eastern wisdom to help people manage stress, sleep better and discover mindful living. It was cited by Harper’s Bazaar as one of the biggest wellness trends for 2019.
Lead author of ‘TEA AND SOPROLOGY: How drinking tea taps into our inner body & mind zen’, Dr Carrie Ruxton, explains that what we do to and how we treat our bodies directly affects our minds and vice versa.
So, dealing with these as two things as separate entities really doesn’t work. They are inextricably linked and focusing on both mental wellbeing and physical health simultaneously is what’s going to get us whizzing through Winter with ease.
As a starting point, we all (I suspect) are culprits of overdoing the screen time, not going to bed early enough and allowing the normal daily stresses to get on top of us. If this all sounds familiar, then anything else that life throws at us will just be layering on top of an already overstretched and, most probably, fairly stressed mind.
To help with the brain whizziness and to calm and centre the mind, Sophrology offer a series of simple exercises, which can help with all the grievances I mentioned above. You can see an exercise to calm an overactive mind here.
Combine with this the magical power of tea, and then we’re really getting somewhere.
The Tea Advisory Panel are the clever folk behind all the tea science – the numbers, the evidence and the magic behind what tea can actually do for us. And I’ve said it before – it’s pretty special indeed.
We all know that caffeine is in tea, but did you know what caffeine can actually do for our brains? It won’t surprise you to know that it can help with alertness and boosts energy.. but you might not be aware that it can help with vigilance, mood and also reduces our perception of fatigue.
Experts recommend that drinking around 8 mugs (yes, 8 mugs!) of tea a day would contain moderate amounts of caffeine, around 400mg and so in each mug of black tea there is around 40/50mg caffeine –half the amount found in coffee. And although having less caffeine, tea still has that calming effect.
We all know that keeping hydrated is key to being healthy in body and mind, but this is always much more at the forefront of our brains during the warmer months, as it’s so obvious – you’re hot! You’re thirsty! You’re stuck on the Victoria Line in blistering heat and you NEED WATER! But of course, it’s just as important to stay hydrated during the Winter…. And what better way to do this than with a cuppa. I tend to brew a pot and keep it by my side while I bash away on my laptop – it encourages me to keep drinking once I’ve finished my first cup. And there’s just something about a pot of tea… wouldn’t you agree?
And top tip – brew your tea for longer. Leave it percolating so all those clever flavonoids (see, I know a lot of tea stuff now – it’s fascinating) can really do their stuff and give you the maximum benefits of your cup of tea. And while it’s brewing, take a moment for yourself. Pause. And perhaps do one of the Sophrology exercises I’ve mentioned before, or try the following from the report, which is aimed towards ‘system 2’ of Sophrology, which focuses on the neck, throat, shoulders, arms and hands and is designed to help restore energy… (YES PLEASE!)
“On standing, bring your attention to your second system. With your arms alongside your body, clench your fists. Now simply exhale through the mouth, then inhale through the nose, hold your breath and “pump” your shoulders up and down until you need to exhale. As you exhale relax your hands, arms and shoulders, pause to notice sensations in your second system (warmth or tingling in your muscles, heaviness in your arms etc…). Repeat with the same focus and then sit down to relax and restore your energy.”
In the same report a study was mentioned, where they monitored over 1000 women and found that regular tea drinkers had significantly greater hip bone mineral density than non-tea drinkers. This might be due to the polyphenol content of tea, but is also thought to be linked to the calcium content of milk added to tea. And for those who don’t like dairy, there are good levels of calcium in many oat, soy and nut milks – make sure you check the label though, as they do vary.
I definitely struggle in the colder, darker months, with all the issues I’ve talked about, so I have been very interested in the idea that marrying the science of tea and the philosophy of Sophrology can help calm the mind, keep the niggles at bay and generally keep our mental health in good shape now, through the Winter and all year round.
So, it’s time to take on November and kick the Winter blues. Having tea as an integral part of my day and introducing some of the Sophrology exercises into my life may just have me hop, skipping and jumping all the way into Spring…
This post is sponsored by the Tea Advisory Panel.