This isn’t a parody of every productivity article ever written, I swear. I actually drink warm water instead of coffee in the mornings.
It wasn’t always that way. I drank coffee every morning for about three years and was used to the highs and lows that came with it. My mom—a 58-year-old African woman—always had issues with my coffee consumption (because apparently it’s her business), so when I started getting migraines, she blamed it on the caffeine. “Try warm water instead,” she told me.
After a decent amount of arguing over it, I finally caved. In an attempt to appease my mom, and as a last-ditch effort to try anything to get the migraines to go away, I made the switch. And who would have guessed? (My mom.) It worked.
Why warm water?
People replace their morning coffee with something else all the time. Decaf. Tea. Juice. Cold water. Lots of options.
Believe me, I tried all of those before agreeing to go with warm water. (Except decaf coffee because . . . what’s even the point?). Nothing changed, and my mom was insistent that drinking warm water on an empty stomach would change my life.
I did some research to be sure she wasn’t trolling me, and I found references to this practice in ancient Chinese medicine, Japanese therapy, and Ayurveda. These sources and many others lean into the immense physical and emotional benefits of drinking warm water in the morning. I’ve always been fascinated by this kind of prescientific knowledge being passed down from generation to generation, and here my mom was, doing the same for me.
With all that said, I wasn’t too hung up on the science behind it—I wanted to see it work. So I decided to try it for myself.
How warm water transformed my mornings
What started off as a grudging and desperate decision—believe me, I did not want to give up my morning cup of coffee—ended up changing the way I work.
Don’t get me wrong: It wasn’t an overnight success. I initially kept dozing off at work, and then I became super fidgety. But I think it was just my body trying to adjust to the change. Once I got through the transition—which took a couple weeks—the benefits became clear. In addition to the physical changes I noticed (I’ll spare you the details), here’s what happened.
I was able to focus better and for longer. Coffee gave me a burst of energy that often came with a crashing low after a few hours. With the switch to warm water, I was more consistently alert and attentive throughout the day—and I wasn’t completely exhausted after work.
No more daily migraines. My migraines wouldn’t go away on their own, and my doctors weren’t able to help (I had my eyes and my head checked!). On day five of switching to warm water, I noticed a difference in the frequency and intensity of the headaches. After the first month, the migraines were completely gone. P.S. I’m no medical doctor, so don’t quote me on this—but it can’t hurt to try, right?
I had more clarity at work. As a copywriter, I have to interpret client briefs, develop content strategies for brands, write, and edit content. This requires a lot of mental clarity, and it takes a toll. With the switch to warm water, I was on top of my game! I found myself remembering important details more, experiencing less anxiety about work, and managing my time and tasks better.
My attitude shifted. All of the above probably contributed to this last one, but wow, did my mood change. Not gonna lie: I was cranky when I drank coffee. With warm water, I had a more positive attitude, which not only helped my productivity, but also helped my relationships with my coworkers (no one wants an irritable colleague).
My coworkers actually found my little warm water secret intriguing, and they kept watching to see if I would cave to the welcoming scent of warm espresso coming from the break room. A little birdie even told me they placed a wager on when I would falter! But I’m happy to report they all lost.
How to replace coffee with warm water
If you’re committed to your coffee mornings like I was, you know how hard it is to go without it. The first few days will feel like your body has turned on you, but hang in there. It wasn’t easy for me, and I don’t expect it to be a walk in the park for you. Just don’t give up too quickly.
1. Don’t go cold turkey on coffee
If your body is depending on coffee, I don’t recommend going cold turkey—mostly because it’ll be miserable, and you’ll be more likely to give up.
Start by reducing your intake. If you usually have three cups, switch to two. Then after a few days, try just one. Or maybe skip your right-when-you-wake-up coffee and wait until your workday starts. Then start skipping coffee completely on some days—maybe try one or two days a week without it. Do whatever works best, but baby steps is the way to go.
2. Make warm water part of your routine
As you start cutting out the coffee, also start adding warm water to your routine. The instinct to get your cup of coffee is always there—after all, it’s a drug you’re addicted to. You’ll need to be more intentional about remembering your warm water.
One way to do this is to habit stack: have your cup of warm water either just before or just after you brush your teeth in the morning. (Note: My mom claims it’s better to drink the warm water before brushing, but that didn’t feel good for me, so I have mine after.)
3. Slowly increase your warm water intake
Newsflash: water is good for you. So if you want to get your daily dose of eight cups all from your new warm water habit, be my guest. But you don’t have to go that far.
I drink 8 oz. (one cup) of warm water every morning. That’s it. When I started, I could barely finish half a cup; after all, when you’re used to coffee (or even cold water), warm water can feel a little off for your senses. Start small, and work your way up to an amount that feels good.
Also: you also don’t have to drink the entire cup at once! Just like some folks sip their morning coffee over the course of an hour, you can drag it out with the water too. Don’t overthink it.
4. Add some flavor
If you don’t like to drink cold water, you almost definitely won’t like to drink warm water. So don’t be afraid to add your own personal touch. If you add lemon to your regular water, do the same with your warm water. Or try cucumber or mint leaves or anything else that makes it easier for you to drink.
And remember, you didn’t like coffee the first time you tried it either. Give it a chance.