Last month I implemented a monthly challenge. The concept is simple… Select one new habit and focus on it for a solid month. 50 people commented on the blog post announcing the monthly challenge saying they were going to participate and over 70 people have joined Vic’s Monthly Challenge private group on Facebook (come on, join us… all the cool kids are doing it!). For the first monthly challenge, I decided to quit caffeine.
Notice I didn’t just quit coffee. I skipped out on decaf coffee, black and green tea, and my beloved dark chocolate. If it had caffeine, I didn’t consume it (except for that one time in Vegas but we’ll get to that). Prior to the challenge, I couldn’t remember the last time that I didn’t start my day with a cup of Joe. I was a daily coffee drinker to the tune of two large mugs per day and also a daily consumer of dark chocolate. The reason that I selected “no caffeine” as my monthly challenge was to continue my efforts to improve my sleep.
Caffeine Killer: How I Stopped
When approaching a monthly challenge, I prefer the Cold Turkey approach. Just effing do it! It’s only 30 days (or thereabouts) and we can do anything for 30 days. I’ve found that when implementing a “quitting” habit, it helps to replace the old habit with a new one. So instead of my automatic ritual of starting the coffee pot each morning, I switched to slicing a lemon in half and juicing it to make lemon water. Drinking lemon water has some purported health benefits, but I chose it mainly because the cutting and juicing took up about the same amount of time as prepping the coffee maker. With the new lemon water habit in place, eliminating the coffee in the morning was no problem.
Overall the transition to no caffeine was easy. After Day 10, I didn’t crave it at all. But I did find myself in situations where the environment cued a desire for items that had caffeine…
Environmental Cues (The Only Time I Slipped)
I went to Las Vegas for the weekend in the middle of September. It was the first time that I’d been to Vegas and it really wasn’t my scene. So I pretty much behaved myself and didn’t wake up with any hangovers that would have required caffeine for medicinal purposes. But I did slip while in Vegas…
I ended up in the Las Vegas airport several hours early for my return flight and the sweet siren song of Starbucks kept calling my name. I always drink some Starbucks while I’m stuck in an airport. Eventually, I gave in to the environmental cue of being in the airport and enjoyed a decaf Americano. So I technically slipped, but it was admittedly a pretty minor infraction by going with decaf.
What I Missed About Caffeine
I did not miss the energy buzz of caffeine at all after about a week and a half. But what I did miss was the experience of enjoying the items that contain caffeine. Holding that warm mug of coffee between my palms on an early Sunday morning while the aroma wafts through my living room was sorely missed. Even the absence of the gurgling of the coffee pot while I get dressed for work or play with Coda created a slight longing. And my mid-afternoon indulgence of 85% dark chocolate is not something that I plan on parting with again anytime soon. So it wasn’t so much that I needed caffeine as much as it was that I missed the small sparks of happiness that I associate with the items that contain caffeine.
My No Caffeine Results
I think it is good to challenge or evaluate our automatic behaviors. So breaking my pattern of automatically starting the coffee pot each morning was good if for no other reason that to take the pause to ask “why?”. As far as the absence of caffeine improving my sleep, I did not notice any benefit. However I did enjoy the morning lemon water. And although I can’t point to any specific health benefits that I’ve noticed, just the fact that I “enjoy” it is enough reason to keep the habit for me. So going forward I plan on keeping the lemon water habit on most days and enjoying coffee as the mood strikes. Also, my daily dose of dark chocolate has definitely returned.
October Monthly Challenge
My monthly challenge for October is more challenging and I’ve already slipped once. If there is one single habit that helps all of my other good habits stay on track (my friend James Clear calls this a keystone habit), it is waking up at 5:00am. So for the 31 days of October, my monthly challenge is to wake up each day at 5:00am including the weekends. I already botched this on day three, so I know this will be more challenging than September’s no caffeine challenge.
I strongly considered going without all social media for the October challenge. But with several people participating in Vic’s Monthly Challenge Facebook group, it seemed like bad timing. That being said, I am feeling the pull to drop out of social media and am strongly considering it for November’s challenge.
How did your September monthly challenge go? Are you doing an October monthly challenge? Let us know in the comments below.