If an alien were to land on earth and see the number of coffee shops in each city, he might conclude the muddy brown liquid was a fuel earthlings used to propel themselves, similar to gasoline for a car. For many people, that view of coffee is semi-accurate: when they feel sluggish or slow, they reach for their next cup of Joe.
Despite its dependable jolt of caffeinated energy, side effects such as jittery nerves and trouble sleeping – as well as certain health conditions (including pregnancy), cutting out expensive frills and even the desire for whiter teeth – cause many coffee drinkers to decide they want to break their coffee-drinking habit. But they are not sure how to go about it. Should they go cold turkey or gradually cut down on the amount of coffee they drink? Here are the pros and cons of each approach for quitting coffee, along with some tips to support each strategy.
The Cold Turkey Approach to Quitting Coffee
The cold turkey strategy for quitting coffee is best if you prefer to dive into a cold pool instead of dipping your toe and wading in slowly. Although it can be more jarring physically and emotionally than quitting coffee gradually, the cold turkey approach demonstrates a decisive and strong commitment to giving up your coffee habit.
How to quit coffee cold turkey: Select a quit date and simply stop drinking coffee on that day. An especially good time to quit coffee cold turkey is if you have a medical procedure scheduled for which you have to stop eating and drinking for at least a day. By the time you recover from the anesthesia or painkillers, some of the initial withdrawal symptoms would have already occurred. Alternatively, choose a time when you’re sick with a bad cold or flu since you already feel crummy and want to sleep more anyway.
Advantages of cold turkey approach to quitting coffee: You will likely have a more unpleasant withdrawal experience, and the bad memory will motivate you to not start drinking coffee again later.
Support for cold turkey approach to quitting coffee: Write down all the reasons you want to quit drinking coffee and refer to them whenever you’re tempted to brew a pot or tithe to your local coffee shop. Also, treat yourself to large or petty indulgences. Go see a movie, get a massage, phone a friend-whatever works for you. Hypnosis can also help you re-frame yourself as a non-coffee drinker. A good hypnotist can guide your subconscious mind into determining what positive role coffee plays in your life and helping you identify an alternate, more positive habit that can accomplish the same task.
The Gradual Approach to Quitting Coffee
Although the gradual approach to quitting coffee-sometimes called coffee fading-will cause less emotional and physical stress, you may be more likely to revert back to your coffee-drinking habits before you ultimately quit.
How to gradually stop drinking coffee: Each week, eliminate one or one-half cup of coffee until you are down to zero cups. Substitute another drink, such as herbal tea or grain-based coffee substitute without caffeine to maintain your daily hot-beverage routine. You could even substitute green tea for coffee, although green tea does contain some caffeine. Finally, if your social life revolves around your coffee shop, rendezvous with friends for fro-yo or a brisk walk instead.
Advantages of gradual approach to quitting coffee: Side effects such as anxiety and headaches will be lessened if you quit coffee gradually.
Support for gradual approach to quitting coffee: Substitute other habits or activities, such as exercise and drinking other beverages, for drinking coffee. Over time you will have replaced your old coffee habit with some new habits that serve you better.
Whether you quit drinking coffee cold turkey or use the more gradual “coffee fading” approach, quitting coffee can be a tough challenge. Still, with the right motivation and a few clever tricks, you can quit drinking coffee without your mood turning as dark as the bottom of a coffee pot.
“Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much?,” MayoClinic.com.
Brad Paul, “How to Give Up Coffee Now!” SelfGrowth.com.
Steve Pavlina, “How to Give Up Coffee,” StevePavlina.com.