One of the most important parts of a healthy lifestyle is a proper routine. A set of actions and habits that form your daily routine will enable you to manage and maintain your health and also give you the structure around which you expand and further your goals and dreams.
Need for a Good Daily Routine
I find that the biggest obstacle to my living a healthy life is a lack of routine. I find myself awake at 3 am often, or else slouching out of bed around noon. Sometimes I spend a week getting up at 5 am and going to sleep at 10 pm. Then I switch it around. The freedom of being a struggling writer allows me to switch routines at will – wonderful, but very unhealthy and very unsustainable.
So for me and everyone else out there, that finds life getting in the way of Life, here is a small routine that incorporates tea and can help keep your mind and body strong and agile.
First Thing in the Morning
In the morning, the first thing that you should do is to “earn your breakfast”. By that, I mean sweat a little. Stretch out and do some calisthenics to get the blood moving in your body. Blood circulation (or the lack of it) is at the core of Chinese medicine. A lack of good circulation leads to weakness, fatigue, soreness and a lazy immune system and metabolism.
After getting your sweat on, have breakfast. Whatever it is you eat, listen to the old Chinese proverb (which most likely has its equivalent in Western folklore):
In the morning, eat good; in the afternoon eat your fill; in the evening, eat sparingly.
The reasoning behind this is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and should be “good” in that it stimulates, fortifies and energizes you. In the afternoon, you should be rather spent after a morning of work and this meal will give your body the bulk of its energy supply for the rest of the day and into the next day. So eat big. Then take an afternoon siesta. In the evening, you should be full and eating a big meal will only contribute to fat accumulation as you sleep. Eat a small, healthy meal that leads unto sleep.
The Role of Tea in a Daily Routine
So how does tea fit into all of this? Each tea can be specifically tailored to fit into a routine that revolves around earning your breakfast and eating well. After breakfast, have a cup of green tea. This tea will energize and stimulate you. However, don’t drink ANY tea (especially green tea) on an empty stomach. The idea here is to start with exercise, eat well and then prepare for your morning’s work with a good cup of energizing green tea. Have two cups.
After lunch, just before your siesta (if you choose to take one), have a pot of oolong tea. This is the afternoon tea of choice for me. The flavor is more fragrant, in general, than a green tea and the ability of oolong teas to help with digestion is well-documented in Chinese as well as Western medical sources.
This tea, again, leads unto the siesta or the afternoon of work that is less pressing than your morning’s work, but just as important. While in the morning, you do the things that you must do for that day, in the afternoon, you do the things you want to do for that day and prepare for the next. A pot of good oolong will ease your mind, allow you to think abstractedly and (hopefully) out of the box, and aid your stomach in dealing with the big, fat lunch you just had.
Before the Evening Meal
A pot of good oolong or pu’erh is best for the pre-evening meal. Drink this in the hours between 3-6 pm, for example. It is the elixir of evening thought and action. You could just as well hold off after that first pot of oolong and wait till the very end of the evening for your last infusion of tea.
The Last Cup of the Day
This last cup of tea is very important. If you drink a highly caffeinated green or black, then you will have a stimulated mind, but a tired body – bad news for sleepers. My advice would be to refer to this essay about tea potions, and choose one (or another that I did not list) that suits your specific needs. I drink it roughly two hours before I go to bed.
I like to drink pu’er with milk and sugar. This is anathema to professional tea drinkers, but I find it soothing and relaxing. Perhaps a nice black with milk and honey? Or a delicate green with sugar or honey? Or perhaps a nice Jasmine Tea or Chrysanthemum with sugar? These, for me, are the nighttime teas that help me out the most. Of course, there are also the straight sleeping teas, such as Chamomile, Anise, Catnip or Valerian Root. In this small article about a Japanese study of green tea, a form of L-Theanine (the compound known for brain stimulation) has demonstrated its ability to help young men sleep.
Learning from the Chinese People
Just to reiterate, the Chinese believe you should never have tea on an empty stomach and you shouldn’t have tea less than one or two hours before you go to sleep at night. Routine is huge in China – at 8 am, noon and 6 pm, EVERYONE in China is eating. Between 1-3 pm, most Chinese are chilling. Some things we should refuse to learn from the Chinese (such as the need for an Emperor in the form of a Communist dictator), but other things might deserve attention. Such as a good routine!
Sascha Matuszak is a German-born American writer and is currently based out of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China.