These days it’s not uncommon to have to speed through each day like a professional skier whizzing downhill at breakneck speeds. Only when you’ve reached the valley of a massive mountain can you spend a short period of time relaxing before you climb back on the lift and head into another long day. If you’re a parent of young children, enrolled in night school, or someone who insists on making time for happy hour, then you may have an after hours to-do list that rivals your daytime responsibilities.
How do you get through those downhill sprints without making a ton of mistakes or losing your friendly smile when your colleagues, customers, or loved ones annoy you just a little too much? Many people drink coffee, others prefer energy drinks or shots, and some take regular smoke breaks or wear nicotine patches.
Whether you get through the mad sprint of daily life by dosing with caffeine or nicotine, you may wonder whether the mental benefits are real. Can a cup of coffee in the morning and a smoke break in the afternoon really boost your energy levels and improve your focus? A lot of research has gone into answering this question, so you don’t have to wonder any longer.
The Effects of Caffeine on Energy Levels
As you move through your day, a brain compound known as adenosine starts to accumulate. Consider this the pesky rock that lodges under your ski and sends you for a brutal face plant in the middle of the mountain. Your sunny mood is suddenly overcome by a black cloud. It may become difficult to focus on your studies and you may forget small details while trying to complete a project.
Then you head down the street for a cup of coffee and your mood readjusts. This is due to the caffeine, which has the ability to block adenosine receptors so that they can’t destroy your energy levels and mental focus. You can now continue down the mountain. Your boss is thrilled with your productivity level. You smile at your test grade. This is how you overcome the later afternoon slump or get through a long night of cramming for that big test.
Research has proven that caffeine leads to the release dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, resulting in the following cognitive benefits:
- Improved alertness
- Enhanced physical energy
- Improved concentration
Other studies have shown that caffeine consumption can make physical exertion feel less daunting while decreasing mental fatigue and improving reaction time. It improves your ability to focus on your work or studies, which can make it easier to remember small details and retain new information. It makes your daily jaunt down that massive mountain feel less stressful while allowing you to accomplish more in each hour of the day.
How Nicotine Affects Studying and Working
Researchers around the world are finding that nicotine is a powerful weapon against life-threatening illnesses that involve cognitive impairment, including Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Schizophrenia. The most impressive finding is that it can improve memory and can potentially overturn memory impairment in those suffering from serious mental disease.
Researchers believe that this memory enhancement comes from improved mental focus. Simply put: nicotine helps you pay attention to your work or studies, resulting in improved performance at work or school. Not only can you benefit from laser focus on a specific task, but it can help you tune out distractions for a long period of time.
If you’re thinking that you’ll stick to your daily cup of coffee because you don’t want the yellow teeth and bad aromas that come with smoking cigarettes, note that cigarettes are no longer the only way to use nicotine. Modern researchers are working hard to disassociate nicotine with cigarettes in the minds of consumers. You can now wear a nicotine patch to keep the good stuff rolling into your system throughout the day or chew a piece of nicotine gum when you need more energy.
A vaporizer is also an option if you want to smoke without the harmful impact of tar and other chemicals found in cigarettes. If you’re already a cigarette smoker or you enjoy spending time with your pipe, then you may feel a little less guilty next time you light up in a stressful moment.
The Bottom Line
If you often feel like that downhill skier blazing through life with your eyes focused on distant rewards, you do have resources to keep your skis gliding smoothly regardless of your obstacles. Those daily trips to your favorite coffee shop or occasional smoke breaks are serving a purpose, and there are benefits to keeping the caffeine on tap.