Everything starts to look better with a hot cup of coffee in your hand—your career, your romantic prospects, your personal health—which is perhaps the best reason to be thankful for how delicious and readily accessible coffee is in today’s society. The “day-brightening” effect of the world’s most popular hot drink is not in your imagination—science and psychology have found that a close relationship exists between coffee and feelings of gratitude.
The Morning’s Magic Wand
In a March 2010 study by the National Coffee Association, subjects who had consumed a coffee beverage the previous day were asked what time of day they had done so. Nearly 75% listed “breakfast” or “morning” as their answer. Morning also happens to be the time when millions of people choose to practice gratitude in its many forms—writing a few pages in a journal, engaging in meditation or yoga, or just spending a few minutes reflecting on and being grateful for the coming day.
Why does coffee often kickstart the morning? It could be coincidental, the simple overlapping of two typical morning events. But it’s more likely there’s a connection, or a series of connections, that makes coffee such a popular accompaniment to the morning gratitude routine.
The Great Energizer
It’s no secret that coffee—and caffeine—provides you with energy. One caffeine metabolite, Theobromine, increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain by opening up blood vessels; another, Theophylline, can help you concentrate. All these qualities lead to increased focus and wakefulness, and can prompt you to recall recent moments you might realize you are grateful for. In the same way, coffee can enliven you for the coming day and encourage you to look forward to the events ahead. More energy also tends to make your outlook more positive, which relates easily to gratitude.
The NIH Study
In 2008, researchers at the National Institute of Health studied the psychological effects of holding a warm cup of coffee in one’s hand. Participants, it transpired, tended to attribute warm feelings to strangers and even found them more trustworthy. A second part of the study used hot and cold therapeutic pads as the variable, and found that those who handled hot pads more likely to choose a gift for a friend than for themselves. Lawrence E. Williams and John A. Bargh, who conducted the study, surmised that “‘warmth’ is the most powerful personality trait in social judgment,” and went on to conclude that warm objects promote warm feelings toward others.
Thanks for Coffee!
If nothing else, coffee can make you grateful for coffee itself. There’s no beverage quite like it, and certainly none that has so many attractive qualities: better physical health, the wonderful aroma therapy it provides, its blessed ability to warm you up on a cold day, and that flavor—perhaps the best on earth.