Caffeine, consciousness and choices

Today’s blog is by Assistant District Manager, Melvyn Howe.


Coffee: a humble bean from a relatively uninteresting looking plant that has mutated into a bewildering array of steaming over-the counter beverages.

They have become the mainstay of concentration for large numbers of often academically burdened – and, indeed, socially enthusiastic – students.

The beverage, which boasts its’ own aficionados and culture, fulfills the same role for probably even more hard-pressed professionals, juggling a growing rash of intense demands on time, intellect and basic staying power.

However, a study suggests the effect of caffeine – the world’s most widely used stimulant with an estimated 2.25 billion cups of coffee drunk daily – is in the mind of the drinker, not necessarily in his or her cup.

The result emerged after University of East London researchers plied 88 students, aged 18 to 47, with coffee.  All were self-confessed coffee lovers who downed at least two cups a day.

Some were given caffeinated coffee and told it was decaffeinated. Others were plied with decaff but informed it was the real thing.

Tests for mood and brainpower followed. The result? Those who knew they were drinking caffeine, as well as those who simply believed they were, demonstrated improved attention and speed.

Said the researchers: “The findings suggest the expectation of having consumed caffeine confers an enhancement on sustained attention that is at least comparable, and perhaps superior to, the effects of caffeine.”

It seems the study is saying trusting coffee for concentration is no more than an exercise in thought. And probably not the best use of thought at that!

Some years ago I was convinced I couldn’t really function without regular “caffeine infusions”. Each day started with one, the morning featured several more and so, too, did the afternoon. You may well ask: “But why not?” After all it certainly seemed to help my powers of concentration.

Of course, there came a point when I realised I had a growing coffee dependency. I don’t recall being desperately concerned, but at one point I recalled my ability to concentrate had actually been fine before becoming caffeine-assisted.

I had come to believe coffee could somehow boost my power to think. But now I was uncomfortable with the fact that I had surrendered my control to a bean.

For me this was a spiritual issue.  I was making a god out of a drink.

I started making a mental protest whenever I felt the need to brew up and was soon drinking a lot less coffee.

Eventually I found I was happy without any coffee at all.

Far from having given something up, I felt a sense of freedom which allowed me to be myself.  I was complete, without any bolt-on extras.

In the scheme of things this wasn’t the biggest challenge I had faced in life, but it carried a profound message for me.

It taught me the importance of being alert, watching my thinking and asking myself: “Why am I doing this?”

It also showed me you don’t have to live in a state of constant surrender to things you are not happy with.

The spiritual ability to make right choices is perhaps an inherent factor which defines who we all are.

I believe it is an ability that never deserts us.  I used mine to choose the freedom of a consciousness unencumbered by the questionable attraction of coffee.

What will your choice be today?


Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: Health

Author:Tony Lobl

I write and speak on spirituality from my perspective as a Christian Science practitioner. I am also an Associate Editor for the Christian Science periodicals. I studied at the University of Surrey earning a BSc Hons Degree in Modern Mathematics before the impact of spirituality on health caught my attention and re-shaped my career.

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