How Green Tea Made Me Superhuman77 Flares 77 Flares ×
Although most people don’t realize it, habits have the power to completely turn your life around. They’re at least as powerful as green tea.
This is my story of green tea, the power of healthy habits, and becoming superhuman.
Man can no more get outside the law of habit, than he can get outside the law of gravitation, but he can employ it wisely or unwisely. . .so wise men master the spiritual forces and laws in the same way. While the bad man is the whipped slave of habit, the good man is its wise director and master.
James Allen, 1911
In 2007 I started working full-time for an education consulting company that was chock-full of caring, emotionally intelligent, mature people who believed in the power of yoga, eating healthy, non-violent communication, & occasionally crystal healing.
It was a wonderful, healing work environment. My job consisted of spending as much of the day as possible on the phone with college students, encouraging them in their studies, asking them how their life could be better, & confronting their limiting beliefs.
All my co-workers were doing the same thing. So it was essentially a boiler room operation, except instead of pushing overpriced stock on unsuspecting rubes with too much liquidity, we were pushing self-improvement on scared first-gen college students with too much debt.
One of the many benefits of this job was that it forced me to examine my own life more closely. I had been struggling to get into a meditation practice for years — I knew intellectually that meditation was the right thing to do, but I lacked the willpower. Similarly with going to the gym. Similarly with figuring out a clear spiritual path. Similarly with improving my diet.
I knew all these good things to do: I just lacked the willpower to do them on any sort of regular basis.
Luckily, the job provisioned me — as a condition of my employment — with mentors and supportive colleagues of all kinds. In such a healthy and pro-change environment, it was perhaps inevitable what happened next:
I started drinking green tea.
I started drinking a lot of green tea.
You might think that this would be a totally innocuous life change, and it was . . . at first. But it quickly grew and became something far less innocuous.
The apparent cause of this change was reading a short article that presented evidence that Japanese men who drank 4-6 cups of green tea daily had reduced rates of cancers of all kinds.
This isn’t the article in question, but it still collects a solid body of evidence so you can get the idea, and it also features one of the best sentences written about green tea’s effects ever:
I remember thinking: “Ok, Japanese men who drink 4 – 6 cups of green tea per day cut their chances of getting various cancers from 33% to 75%. That’s probably the best guarantee anyone can give me. I don’t want to get cancer: ergo, I should start drinking 4 -6 cups of green tea per day.”
And so I did.
It was as simple as picking up a $2 box of green tea bags from Trader Joes and double-brewing two tea bags in the morning as soon as I arrived at work, and then two more tea bags after lunch, in a large 12 oz mug.
That had to be the equivalent of at least 4 cups, especially since I left the tea bags steeping until I finished the full 12 oz mug (a practice that many tea connoisseurs would surely frown upon; I, however, grew to love the bitter, acidic, over-steeped taste.)
It was the simplest of habits, anchored to two of the simplest events: arriving at work in the morning, and finishing lunch in the afternoon.
The caffeine gave me a nice, gentle, slow ramp-up lift at both times — especially in the afternoon, when my brain automatically decided it was time for a nap.
This habit, once established, became nearly impossible to break and is still with me to this day (although I have since added a squeeze of lemon, since evidence suggests that ascorbic acid increases the bioavailability of the catechins.) It became my ritual in the same way that some people’s ritual was to hit up Starbucks for a double espresso each morning.
And it changed my life.
First, it improved my work performance, via the aforementioned caffeine lift. Subtle, but important. Secondly, and vastly more important, it demonstrated to me that a healthy life habit could be put on autopilot — literally, that once this healthy habit was established, it gave me more energy than it took for me to maintain it — i.e., it was now adding more benefit to my life than it cost in terms of time or mental effort.
That one example was all I needed to convince me that I could follow this procedure to turn my entire life around.
If I could become master of my habits, and fill my life with healthy habits that gave me more energy than they required, I could be, in essence, superhuman. I could rise above my own frailties, the ill health and time-wasting blocks to performance that had plagued my life till then.
This idea was, of course, intensely appealing to me.
The rest, as they say, is history: the next habit I adopted was making my daily lunch automatic — I would fix a single healthy meal on Sunday evenings, and divide it up into 5 Tupperware portions.
This put my healthy-eating choice on automatic for 33% of the meals I would eat during the week — and from there, it wasn’t hard to automate my breakfast and, to a lesser degree, dinner. (For years, it was quinoa, bell peppers, organic spinach, and grass-fed buffalo meat for lunch, 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 12 months a year.)
Next up was meditation. After struggling for the previous 5 years, I opened the year 2012 with a solid 30 minute morning-and-evening practice that lengthened by the end of the year to a 1-hour morning-and-evening practice. The year 2012 included a 10-day Goenka Vipassana meditation retreat and the stunning and reassuring realization that an infinite wellspring of creativity was waiting for me in the silence of meditation.
This is the reason I recommend meditation so strongly to everyone, and especially to creative people: you lose all your anxiety about “production” of your art when you realize you can always “go to the Well” to get more inspiration & guidance.
Next I automated my gym attendance, by tacking it on to my morning routine, just before meditation. I found my meditation practice concentration improving when my body was thoroughly worn out and “woken up” by a good 30 minutes of weights or cardio. I flirted with yoga and discovered the power of the yoga + meditation combination. To this day, some of the deepest peace I have experienced has come after the yoga + meditation combo.
The magic of these habits is that they become automatic, and ushered in a whole cascade of beneficial side-effects. Whatever the weather, I was rising at 530 and hitting the gym by 540am: combined this early workout with meditation and not having to fix a lunch for myself every day gave me such a good start to my day that I was arriving at the office a minimum of a half-hour early — and often a full hour early before the work day started.
This additional time “at work” when no one else was around allowed me to crush my targets and goals, and enjoy myself while doing it much more, as well.The five promotions & raises I received in five years suggest that this was working on some level especially since, before starting the green tea habit, I was ready to quit.
Understanding how to hack healthy habits into my life literally turned me from an average, frustrated, struggling & stuck line employee into an exceptional contributor to a corporate culture that profited greatly from my efforts, while bringing me into a life of deeper peace, serenity, and calm as a benefit.
It was this foundation of healthy habits that gave me the base from which to leave this same company at which I had learned so much in 2012, and pursue the journey you are now taking part in by reading this entry.
So, don’t under-estimate the power of green tea: or any other small, repeated action that gives you more energy than it requires at first, or eventually. Consider these the best investments you will ever make in yourself.
If you want to be superhuman, start with green tea, or whatever healthy habit makes sense to you.
Start small. Anchor your new habit to an existing habit (like getting up in the morning). Repeat 20 – 30 times, until it is automatic. Then add something else.
It only takes one to start.
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