Facing a global pandemic has its obvious share of obstacles as most of us are transitioning from a typical office or school environment to working and educating ourselves from home. Needless to say, it’s rather difficult to finish a project while juggling homeschooling, work deadlines, all while keeping tabs on the latest Kanye West election news.
But if there’s one thing we all have in common — and studies show it’s 107 million of us in the United States alone — it’s to sip and enjoy a delicious cup of coffee in the morning. It’s what we do before the chaos, before we check our Twitter feed, and before the kids wake up. As it turns out, that morning brew may be more than just a peaceful moment before those daily Zoom calls begin.
Coffee has many effects on the brain. Aside from its wonderful benefit of jolting our bodies awake, studies have shown that caffeine improves cognitive functions including mental performance, alertness, and heightens our overall concentration levels, making that morning cup even more crucial before that first virtual meeting with the boss.
How does that work exactly? Caffeine is a stimulant, and when consumed, it triggers the fight-or-flight response, blocking neurotransmitters in the brain that make us feel tired. This helps to better hone in on finishing a project, studying for a test, or even tapping into our creative side, such as learning a new instrument, mastering a new artistic skill, or starting that first draft of your novel.
There is a slight catch, however. As the old saying goes, too much of anything can be bad, even when it comes to something we love as much as coffee. It’s recommended to limit coffee intake to less than 300 milligrams per day to maximize its mental benefits. Overloading on caffeine builds a tolerance, lessening its effects on our bodies and minds. The more cups we indulge in during the day, the less likely we’ll experience an increase in productivity — and the more likely we’ll be to witness pings of anxiety and irritability.
Aside from boosting concentration and improving overall alertness, caffeine also increases information retention, helping the brain to better preserve memories. This is incredibly beneficial when studying or working to learn on a new skill, hobby, or job task. A recent John Hopkins scientific study underscores this theory, with results indicating that caffeine enriches memories up to 24 hours after consumption.
Caffeine can even benefit those who suffer from mental health conditions, most notably attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, a common neurological disorder that impacts an individual’s ability to focus, primarily during school or at work. Because caffeine is an impetus on the central nervous system, the production of dopamine increases, a chemical generally low in those who suffer from ADHD. Dopamine, known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter, is a contributing factor to heightened moods, proper decision making, and evidently increased concentration levels.
Though it’s not suggested to replace therapy, regular doctor visits, and prescribed medication with caffeine, a cup of coffee a day can show dramatic improvements for those suffering from the neurological illness.
With the uncertainties of living through a global pandemic, without the physical support of loved ones, it’s no wonder why so many of us have experienced difficulties staying on task, or even finding the motivation to turn off Netflix and get to work. It’s comforting to know on the mornings we find ourselves stumbling out of bed, determined to end it with a productive streak, that our first cup of coffee is rooting for us, providing us with enough zest to do it all over again the next day.