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What make Warm Beverages so Calming?

While searching the web about calm moments and cosiness, chances are that you will see many photos featuring a pair of hands around a warm drink of hot chocolate, tea or coffee.

Drinking warm beverages is a part of your daily routines: at breakfast, during a break from work or before bed—hot drinks have the ability to boost your days in so many ways. In this post, I am looking at the different reasons why a warm drink is so satisfying, hygge, calming.

First, hot beverages slow you down. If you sip too soon, you’ll burn your tongue. So, you wait, you sit down, you relax while waiting for your drink to cool down. Having a break from your (sometimes stressful) routine makes you feel more relaxed and cheerful. Then, you can get back to work with a fresh mind and new focus.

Warm drinks also appeal to your every sense. While you’re sipping, blowing and waiting for the optimum temperature, you inhale the aromatic vapours. You listen to the sound of the spoon swirling, you taste, you smell, you touch and feel the warmth transferring to your hands, to your body. It makes you focus on all your senses, and makes this moment a mindful moment, peaceful for your mind.

When your favourite hot beverage enters your body, your blood vessels expand. It improves circulation and can lead to muscle relaxation. Furthermore, most cozy beverages are made of hot water and proper hydration is important for the body. Good hydration assists the kidney in removing toxins.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder* found that holding a cup of hot beverage made one feel friendlier to someone you have just met, compared to holding a cup of iced coffee. The participants “judged a target person as having a ‘warmer’ personality (generous, caring)” after holding a hot coffee versus a cold coffee. The researchers suggest that it is because warm sensations activate a part of the brain (the insular cortex) which is also responsible for judgement about others, feelings of trust, empathy…

You also take a hot drink when coming down with a cold or flu. A warm drink can help you find relief from symptoms such as coughs, runny noses, sore throat, feverish feeling. It does not heal, but according to Pr Ron Eccles, from Cardiff University and the Common Cold Centre, the use of hot drinks has the effect of reducing pain levels and the need to cough. Stimulating receptors in the mouth “are well documented in the literature to influence both the sensation of pain and the sensation of cough”. The 'taste nerves' and 'cough nerves' enter the brain stem around the same point.

“Remember,” says Eccles, “symptoms are what we feel, and what we feel can be influenced by our mood, our expectations, our culture, all sorts of things.”

Hot liquids enhance the taste. The taste receptor that picks up sweet, bitter and umami (bouillon) tastes sends a stronger electrical signal to the brain when food or drink is warmer. Pleasant notes, especially sweet, release endorphins, morphine-like compounds in the brain that calm cough reflexes and decrease the perception of pain, and lead to a better feeling!

It is amazing how the simple act of drinking a warm beverage can have on our mental and physical health!

Now I am going to make myself a nice hot chocolate, with the new cocoa I bought from Calm Cocoa and have what I call a Moment of Art:

I breathe in and out... In... and out... I see the different brown colours of the chocolate, a bit of the foam in the middle and on the side. I taste chocolate with a slight bitterness. I taste home. I smell chocolate too. It’s the smell of home to me. I feel the warmth of the mug between my hands. I hear silent outside. It is just me and the Chocolate.

And you, what kind of hot beverages are you going to make now?

* Source: Lawrence E. Williams, and John A. Bargh, Experiencing Physical Warmth Promotes Interpersonal Warmth Science, 2008 Oct 24; 322(5901): 606–607.


I have created a free Checklist on How to Create a Calm Space in your Home.

CLICK HERE to know more.

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