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> Back to Self-Care Excerpts List

Self-Care Excerpt from Don't Weight

The Tea Ritual

I know eastern cultures have had tea rituals for centuries. When I think of human nature and the components of a tea ritual, I think all people can benefit from the aroma, relaxation, and structure of the tea ritual. I was not the one to bring this great idea into my life. Oh, I drank tea. But, that is not the same as a tea ritual. My clients were the ones to instruct me in the true value of this activity. When one client had an idea to drink tea to relax, I told other clients about it. As other clients used this idea, each one added another way that they could benefit from drinking, preparing, and serving tea. Eventually a ritual evolved. I encourage you to try this idea and develop your own individual ritual that meets your specific needs. But, first there is some background information you will find useful.

I must start with some information about the human brain. Our olfactory center, the part of the brain that processes our sense of smell, is very deep in the brain. This was one of the first parts to develop in the evolution of the human brain. Therefore our sense of smell is our most basic sense. Smells and aromas profoundly affect us. Our emotions and our moods are affected by what we smell. We can use this fact when we seek ways to meet our emotional needs.

Next, I want to comment on breathing. Deep breathing relaxes and reduces stress. We all know it. We just don't do it enough. Try it right now. Lift your ribcage so you have room to breathe. Look up from this book. Slowly inhale through your nose as you feel the cool air fill your lungs. Slowly exhale through your mouth and hear your sigh of relaxation. Anytime you participate in an activity that encourages deep slow breathing, you are encouraging relaxation. This is worth remembering since relaxation and stress reduction are primary human needs.

The last concept that I want to mention is the effect that habits have on our emotions. People are creatures of habit. When we do something the first time we must think about it quite a lot. After we have done an activity many times, we get in a habit and we do not have to think as much about our actions. Our emotions are also involved. Habitual actions, or rituals, tend to evoke the same habitual emotional response time after time. We get used to doing an action and feeling the corresponding emotion. It is all part of the habit. Some habits trigger anxiety and tension. Some habits trigger comfort and familiarity.

It takes just as long to form a constructive habit
as it does to form a destructive habit.

We can choose to foster habits that improve our lives.

Part of the process of building a healthy lifestyle
is to gradually add constructive habits that
are comfortable and self-perpetuating.

How can we use human reactions to aroma, the relaxation of deep breathing, and the comfort/familiarity of habits to meet our emotional needs? My answer is the "Tea Ritual". I will not tell you what the ritual should be. Instead I will ask you a series of questions that will assist you in developing your own ritual.

  • How will you make your tea? It is up to you. Some people like the speed of the microwave. Some people like the peaceful sound of boiling water on the stove. Experiment. Choose what you want.
  • What cup feels good to you? Do you want a sturdy mug or a dainty china cup? You may like different cups for different tea or moods.
  • Where will you sit when you drink your tea? What kind of chair will feel most comfortable while still supporting good posture? You need good posture in order to breathe deeply.
  • What do you want to look at while you sip your tea? This is very important. Select a spot where you will be looking at something pleasant. Would you like to look out a window at a tree in the breeze? Do you want to watch your fish in the aquarium? I suggest you do NOT watch television. TV often has an anesthetic effect that causes tired tension rather than relaxation.
  • What sounds do you want to listen to while you drink your tea? Do you want to listen to music, the breeze in the trees, or a wind chime? Think about it and set yourself up to hear pleasant sounds.
  • What kind of tea do you like? I suggest you try non-caffeine or decaffeinated tea in any flavor you want. Some teas claim to have qualities like "calming" or "relaxing" or "refreshing". Please consider these claims to be possibilities and trust your own reactions to choose what you like best.
  • What do you want to put in your tea? If you can learn to enjoy tea plain, that is better. Your tea ritual will be more useful if it does not stimulate your appetite. If you like sweets, try the smallest amount of sugar or honey that satisfies you.

When you have experimented and answered these questions for yourself, you will have a ritual that you can use repeatedly. As you make your tea, breathe and relax. Think calming thoughts. If unpleasant thoughts intrude, you may select a helpful positive phrase to repeat in your mind. You cannot think two thoughts at the same time. Keep your positive thoughts flowing. It will become a habit.

As you brew and sip your tea, inhale the aroma. Breathe. Feel the scent fill you. Picture the rehabilitating oxygen flow into your lungs. Breathe. Exhale the used air, making room for more delightful aroma. Relax. After you get in this relaxing habit, all you will need to do is imagine the aroma and breathe deeply. Relaxation will descend on you like a soft rain. Once you are practiced, you can give this to yourself anytime you want. (I used to carry my favorite tea bag in my purse so that I could inhale the scent when I needed to relax. Later I used the memory of that lovely scent to help me relax.)

You can enjoy long tea rituals or tiny brief ones. In hot weather, you can enjoy the aroma of the tea brewing and then pour it over ice for a cool drink. You can do what you choose. You have one more tool to use when you need relaxation, comfort, calm, and much more. You deserve to feel good.

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