Last week, an acquaintance explained to me at some length how he’d managed to give up coffee. I’m a deeply committed coffee-drinker, so I must confess I wasn’t very interested hearing his tactics.
But what did interest me was the fact that he didn’t have any particular reason to give up coffee. No, it didn’t make him jittery, and it didn’t hurt his stomach, and as long as he stopped drinking it after dinner, it didn’t mess with his sleep.
“So why give it up?” I asked.
He didn’t really have a good explanation. I got the impression that he felt that he just ought to give it up, because he enjoyed it too much; there had to be something “wrong” or addictive or unhealthy about liking his morning coffee to such a degree.
Some people give up coffee for health reasons. True, coffee does have some bad health effects. But it also has some good health effects. So it’s hard to know exactly how that cuts. And the increased alertness that coffee brings! Can’t underestimate the importance of that.
And from a happiness perspective, the tiny joys that we can experience every day are extraordinarily important. Samuel Johnson wrote, “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible.” The small but real gratification of daily coffee helps build our happiness.
Samuel Johnson also said, “All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.” I think that’s true of child-rearing, or workplace rules, or coffee-drinking. Why be so severe with yourself, to no obvious purpose? It’s important to keep a little cushion of small pleasures as part of daily life.
(Given the topic, it’s very appropriate that I’ve twice quoted Johnson; he was a compulsive tea-drinker.)
Of course, I’m justifying my own habits of drinking as much coffee—and tea and Diet Coke—as I can get my hands on every day. Until 7:00 p.m.
Now I know some people will say, “I gave up coffee, and it was tough, but now I feel much better.” I’m skeptical. Do they really feel better, or do they tell themselves they feel better, to justify having given up the coffee? But I suppose from a happiness-project perspective, it doesn’t matter how they “really” feel—if they think they feel better, they do feel better.
But as for me, drinking coffee makes me happy.