Category: Culture and Lifestyles
Think you’d hand in your notice if you suddenly struck it rich? You’d be surprised.
When Keith, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, worked at a technology company that went public, he became rich overnight. He was sure he’d never need to work again.
His pay-out from the initial public offering was well into the “tens of millions” of dollars, he says, a life-changing amount. It gave him the type of financial security that most of us can only dream of.
He stayed on at first, but soon stopped working. He spent a year travelling and spending money on “frivolous things” but found it difficult to enjoy his life, he says.
Like most people, Keith (who asked that his last name and identifying details not be used due to the personal nature of his story) had long believed he worked simply to make money. He was wrong. And so even with savings that would last a lifetime, Keith started another job search.
“I just felt unhappy at the lack of structure and not knowing what my purpose in life was. My skills were deteriorating and I was finding it difficult to interact with other people intellectually,” says Keith, now in his mid-thirties. “There’s a higher reason why we all go to work.”
Now, he’s back at work — and significantly happier than he was not working. You’d think striking it suddenly rich would be the ultimate ticket to freedom. Without money worries, the world would be your oyster. Perhaps you’d champion a worthy cause, or indulge a sporting passion, but work? Surely not. However, remaining gainfully employed after sudden wealth is more common than you’d think.
After all, there are numerous high-profile billionaires who haven’t called it quits despite possessing the luxury to retire, including some of the world’s top chief executives, such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
But it turns out, the suddenly rich who aren’t running companies are also loathe to quit, even though they have plenty of money. That could be, in part, because the link between salary and job satisfaction is very weak.
According to a meta-analysis by University of Florida business school professor Timothy Judge and other researchers, there’s less than a 2% overlap between the two factors. In the long run, we derive job satisfaction from non-monetary sources, which include positive peer relationships, the ability to work on meaningful projects and even leadership opportunities.
But, most of us take our jobs and the nonmaterial things they bring us for granted. We don’t realise that, though, until we’re faced with a situation of extreme wealth, says Jamie Traeger-Muney, an Israel-based therapist and founder of the Wealth Legacy Group who works with clients all over the world.
About 98% of her patients continue working in some way after they are financially secure, she adds. For some, it’s about a sense of purpose; for others it’s a way to keep a much-needed routine.
“Money is a much smaller driver of happiness and fulfilment from work than we anticipate,” she says. “There’s a difference between what they fantasise about and what actually feels meaningful, motivating and fulfilling.”
There’s another, more egotistical reason why some of us can’t stand not being in the game: status. Imagine the embarrassment of being so highly-accomplished, so associated with your work successes and then, as time passes, you can’t answer the question of “What do you do?” so easily, says Brooke Harrington professor at the Copenhagen Business School.
Going back to work — or never quitting — helps maintain an identity that’s derived from our professional achievements, especially if that identity has long been tied to our work, says Harrington.
“We lose status when we’re not employed in a job that can help others place us in the social hierarchy, and help us place ourselves [in the hierarchy],” she says. In short, it’s hard to know where you fit in when you’re not at least on the ladder.
As a serial entrepreneur, Karen Gordon, the founder of an employee engagement firm that she launched more than a decade after starting a telecommunications firm, decided that starting something new — and staying at work — was more important than spending her profits over the years.
“People enjoy accomplishment and enjoy [being] able to be competitive — and to win,” says Gordon, who is based in Austin, Texas in the US. She also craved the daily challenges that come with working as team, she adds.
China is an ancient, mysterious land w which extends up to an area of 9,596,960 sq km. This country, with its rich culture and ancient traditions, is abundant in its resources and minerals and has served people for generations. The splendid Chinese culture, with its distinctive customs, is credited with four great inventions viz., gun powder, paper, printing and compass.
This keenness of the Chinese culture can also be seen in the uniqueness displayed in their arts and crafts, calligraphy, embroidery, operas, painting and silk. Martial art, a fairly recent concept in the rest of the world, has been a part of the Chinese culture for centuries.
Chinese literature has also contributed a lot towards shaping the rich heritage of this culture. The delectable and vibrant Chinese cuisine is also amazing and has travelled to most of parts of the globe to turn into a universal cuisine. For more amazing and interesting facts about Chinese culture, scroll further!
— Chinese civilization is considered to be the longest and the most continuous civilization of the world.
— In ancient times, it was believed that China was situated in the center of the world and hence the name ‘China’ or ‘Zhong Guo’, which means ‘Central Nation’ or ‘Middle Kingdom’.
— The first human skull, which is estimated to be about 67,000 years old, was found in Liujiang, southern part of China.
— Considered to be one of the most prominent introductions to the Chinese culture, Buddhism carved a new beginning to religion and philosophy in China, in the second century B.C. During this period, innovative ideas led to new designs, temple layouts, new styles of figure painting, sculptures, furnishings etc.
— Chinese is the most widely spoken language with about 850 million speakers across China.
— In the present day Chinese culture, the Chinese Government has incorporated several elements of Chinese tradition. Various forms of Chinese literature, art, music, fashion, film and architecture have been revived vigorously with the rise of Chinese nationalism.
— Opportunities for social advancement of the Chinese are purely based on their performance in the prominent imperial examinations which have been in place since 605 A.D. This helped the Emperor select skillful bureaucrats and also refined the perception of culture in China.
— Calligraphy, a decorative practice of hand writing, was developed as an art form in China, over 2,000 years ago. Nowadays, this art form is done with special pens and ink rather than the brushes used in the olden days.
— Previously, sculpting and painting weren’t significant in Chinese art forms but with the iconography of Buddhism, they reached a different level altogether during the fifth and the sixth centuries. During the Middle Ages, the art styles which were prominent were the Tibetan, Mughal and Mongolian styles.
— There are about 300 different forms of opera in China with a rich history of more than 800 years. Chinese Opera has been popular for generations and uses string instruments along with high-pitched vocal stylings.
— During the Chinese Spring Festival, about 230 million people go back to their hometowns to welcome the arrival of the Chinese New Year. This is the time of the year when public transports get congested with a sea of people and subsequently, ticket fares skyrocket. China observes a 15 day holiday throughout the nation which is the reason for this mass migration.
— Shanghai, in China, is considered the biggest city of the world with a population of 16 million.
— Being a multi-racial country, China is home to 56 ethnic groups.
— In the Sichuan province of China, the population is more than the total inhabitants of Canada, Australia, Austria, Guatemala, Holland, New Zealand, Malaysia, Portugal, and Greece taken together.
— Unless you have a close relation or association with the person you meet, you should not address a Chinese with the first name. Official or professional titles such as “Mayor Wang” or “Engineer Li” can also be used for the address.
— During ‘Great Leap Forward’, Mao Zedong’s unsuccessful experiment, which was a step towards making China, a modern economy, about 20-30 million people died of starvation.
— Chopsticks, the wooden cutlery items, are a specialty of the Chinese and are used for the longer reach. It is not considered good manners to play unnecessarily with them. Chinese prefer to dine with their families and use the traditional, hygienic and well-designed utensils.
— Ginseng is considered the most important herb of Chinese diet and has special significance in their folklore and tradition as well. For about five thousand years, special herbs were compulsorily included in Chinese diet charts, for a long and problem free life.
— Chinese follow very specific traditions with respect to their outfits. They wear dark colors for special ceremonies whereas light colors for casual outings.
— One of the wider known and followed customs of Chinese culture is giving a hard-boiled egg, dyed red, in order to make birth announcements.
— According to the Chinese culture, dragon is considered to be the most powerful and is the luckiest symbol for them among all the other twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.
— One of the major attractions of China is ‘Great Wall of China’ that is more than 21000 km long. Another attraction here is the 46-ton of the ‘Great Bell temple’ situated in Haidian District of Beijing.
Besides intelligence, willpower is meant to be the single most important trait for success in life. In our latest SmartList, we explain simple ways to improve your self-control.
Hold in your pee
Strangely, it can stop you making impulsive decisions – psychologists call it ihnibitory spillover.
Intriguingly, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron claims to use this strategy before important meetings. The idea is that while the brain is exercising self-control on one task, its discipline spreads to any other task at hand. In one study, for instance, some participants were asked to drink a few glasses of flavoured water. Before having the chance to relieve themselves, they were given the opportunity to earn some money. The participants who needed the toilet were more likely to forgo a smaller, immediate award in order to receive a bigger pay-out later on – a classic test of willpower.
Sleep on it
Psychologists think of willpower as a “limited resource” – essentially, you can use it up over the course of a day. We can’t always choose when our self-control is going to be tested, of course – but when making a big decision (about whether to buy a car, or end your marriage, say) you may do better to sleep on it. Otherwise, you may face regret in the morning.
Get a sugar rush
Self-control uses up the brain’s energy reserves, meaning that you are more weak-willed when you are hungry. One study found that judges are more likely to make rash judgements before lunch for this very reason – and it could also explain why we lose our temper and get “hangry” around dinnertime. But a simple sweet drink can give you a boost and restore your reserves. It’s not a good strategy if you are trying to be healthy, though.
Although willpower can wear down over the day (and with hunger) there are ways to restore it. One option is comedy. A recent study found that people who watched funny videos were better at controlling their impulses later on. They were more likely to stomach a nasty-tasting drink, for instance, that was meant to be good for their health.
Self-control often involves suppressing some difficult emotions, as you keep your eye on the prize. Fortunately, mindful contemplation helps you to balance your feelings, so that you can continue to act in your own best interests.One simple technique is to focus your attention across different parts of the body, observing the unique sensations in each place.
Stop feeling guilty
The mind automatically associates guilt with pleasure – meaning that we find our vices even more enticing when we know we’re not meant to enjoy them. Conversely, a little guilt-free indulgence may just be the rest you need to help you maintain your resolve. So if you do find yourself breaking a resolution, don’t beat yourself up – just see it as a momentary lapse that will leave you renewed and ready to fight on.
Why have scientists been slow to understand women’s sexuality, asks Rachel Nuwer.
What do women want? It’s a question that’s stymied the likes of Sigmund Freud to Mel Gibson. It has been at the centre of numerous books, articles and blog posts, and no doubt the cause of countless agonised ponderings by men and women alike. But despite decades spent trying to crack this riddle, researchers have yet to land on a unified definition of female desire, let alone come close to fully understanding how it works.
Still, we’ve come a long way from past notions on the subject, which ran the gamut of women being insatiable, sex-hungry nymphomaniacs to having no desire at all. Now, scientists are increasingly beginning to realise that female desire cannot be summarised in terms of a single experience: it varies both between women and within individuals, and it spans a highly diverse spectrum of manifestations. As Beverly Whipple, a professor at Rutgers University, says: “Every woman wants something different.”
We’re also coming to realise that male and female desire might not be as dissimilar as we’ve typically assumed. For decades, researchers bought into society’s belief that men have higher desire than women, since large studies consistently confirmed that finding. But more recent evidence reveals that differences between the sexes may actually be more nuanced or even non-existent, depending on how you define and attempt to measure desire. Some studies have even found that men in relationships are as likely as women to be the member of the couple with the lower level of sexual desire.
Past studies typically asked participants things like, “Over the last month, how much desire have you experienced?” When that question is posed, men do typically rate higher than women. But when the question is revised to ask about in-the-moment feelings – the amount of desire experienced in the midst of a sexual interaction – scientists find no difference between men and women. “This challenges our gender-related stereotypes about women being passive and not sexual,” says Lori Brotto, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of British Columbia, and a private practice psychologist. “It also suggests that the factors that elicit desire in the moment might be equally as potent for men as for women.”
Others have found that women’s desire waxes and wanes with their menstrual cycle. “During women’s peak period of arousal, which occurs around ovulation, their sexual motivation is just as strong as men,” says Lisa Diamond, a professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah. “Women don’t have lower sexuality than men. What they have are more variable patterns.”
This makes sense when thinking in terms of sex’s ultimate purpose: making babies. “Biology, which helps to drive reproduction, is an element of sex,” says Anita Clayton, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia. “It’s only in modern times that reproduction and sex are uncoupled.”
Previously, doctors had also assumed that the male sex hormone testosterone could be linked to female desire. In fact, it probably does not play a major role: several studies found no difference in testosterone levels in women who have high levels of desire and those diagnosed with a desire disorder. Despite this finding, women continue to request testosterone as a treatment for low desire, and doctors continue to prescribe it – often based on lab tests that erroneously use male levels of testosterone as a marker for what normal levels of that hormone should look like in a woman’s body.
Other research finds that testosterone and desire are linked only very indirectly, and that sexual activity has more of an effect on hormone levels than hormones do on whether someone actually desires sex. Sexual thoughts increase testosterone in women, as does sexual jealousy. “Thinking that sex just comes out of testosterone is such a falsehood,” says Sari van Anders, an associate professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, whose lab led the investigations. “Hormones have such small – if any – influence on desire.”
Even the variety of feelings during sex itself had gone unrecognised: women do not necessarily experience the same progression of excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution that men do. Instead, the order is often shuffled. Sex itself can be the trigger for desire and arousal, or a first orgasm might lead to the desire for a second. “Often for women, genital, physical arousal precedes the psychological experience of desire,” Diamond says. “Whereas in men, desire precedes arousal.”
Desire, however, does not necessarily entail the wish to engage in sex with another person. Each woman (and, indeed, man) is different in terms of preferences, and those preferences may change at different times. Women may sometimes or always desire solitary masturbation, and some can even experience orgasm purely through thought, with no physical contact at all. Others may desire sexual activity with a partner, but without penetration or without ending in orgasm. “When people say they have a high desire for a partner, they might actually mean they want to be close to someone, or relieve their boredom, or experience something or someone new, or experience orgasm,” van Anders says. “My guess is that desire depends on the context, the person, the time of their life, relationship factors and who’s available.”
The range of turn-ons women report are extremely varied as well. Some prefer G-spot stimulation, or for their partner to suck on their toes. Others like to dominate, or simply to be held – the list goes on and on. “Usually clitoral stimulation is equated with males, but we’re documenting in the laboratory that women respond to a lot of other things, too,” says Whipple. “We need to educate women and give them permission to experience what they find pleasurable, and to let them know that they don’t have to fit into a single model of desire and sexual pleasure.”
That diversity is now reflected in porn – a relatively new development. Though women have always been involved in the industry, until the 1980s porn was largely geared toward a male audience. When home videos became available, however, porn – previously only shown in theatres – became more easily accessible to women as well as men. Picking up on this, female directors began creating porn marketed towards women, which often took a softer approach, with story lines lacking in violence, for instance.
The industry has continued to evolve, however, with porn made by and consumed by women including erotic Victorian vampire sequences, all-male gay porn, monster porn and more. “It’s much more diverse now, because people realised that women are also perverts,” says Laura Helen Marks, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of English at Tulane University. “Women have really taken up the camera and are responding to the diversity of female desire.”
The British Fashion Council has announced 4 designers set to show their collections to the public during London Fashion Weekend.
Fashion week may once have been an industry insiders only event but thanks largely to the influence of the internet, social media and a band of very popular bloggers or social influencers – everyone wants to get involved.
Sadly almost all fashion week shows have an invite-only policy that restricts the guestlist to fashion press, buyers and other industry figures. So unless you have the required skills to slip past a burly bouncer unnoticed, you’ll be left out in the cold (or tuning in online for the live stream).
Recent seasons have seen some moves towards the democratisation of fashion shows, most notably last year which saw Givenchy’s New York spring/summer 2016 show open its doors with some tickets made available to the public. And now it seems London Fashion Week will be following in its footsteps.
The BFC yesterday announced that London Fashion Weekend (the consumer-event that follows London Fashion Week) will this season see designers present their collections to the public.
Mary Katrantzou, Emilia Wickstead, Holly Fulton and Temperley London are the names announced so far who will be hosting catwalk shows at the 4 day long event which will be held this year at the Saatchi Gallery.
Whilst catwalk shows are not new to the event – the usual format is trend presentations featuring a variety of brands – this season’s offering however, will allow visitors to get an authentic fashion-insider experience with an in-depth look at the participating designer’s collections.
In addition the BFC have also announced a series of talks which will be held over the weekend hosted by an array of industry figures from designers Nicholas Kirkwood and Charlotte Dellal to Premier Models founder Carole White.
There will of course also be the usual shopping opportunities that London Fashion Weekend has become famous for.
It is important to begin the article with the mantra of an obvious fact – that wine is an amazing way to meet new people and get a between the lines look at who someone is.
Knowing your wine means knowing geography, culture, history and the art that goes into making the most sophisticated beverage known to us. Now, I don’t mean to say that you need to be a so called “wine snob” – because that only says you’re a snob. I mean getting to know more about the bottle you’re sharing together to show a sense of passion and culture to your character. What’s more attractive in a person than that?
Bringing a bottle of Yellowtail to a party, or ordering something that ordinary at a restaurant with someone is comparable to discussing how cultured and well traveled you are, then emoting on a recent trip to Daytona wearing a shirt that needs ironing. This doesn’t mean you have to break the bank for a better wine, but just to put more thought and care into the bottle you open.
For the novice in wine, a great way to start is to know what you like. What varietal do you like? Do you like Merlot? Then look at an independent wine agency, or simply head to your LCBO (especially one with a strong vintages section) and talk to someone there about different regions (BC and Oregon make amazing Merlots) and look for something in a comfortable zone price range that you’ve never heard of.
Being uncommon, doesn’t make a wine necessarily more expensive. Google it and learn more about it so you can discuss what you know. Learn some tasting notes, the layers of flavour, find out what cheese will go well with it, and show some care into what you’ve opened – that will go a long way to say a lot about you.
The advanced oenophile will already know what I’m talking about, but that doesn’t mean you can’t grow further, and use your knowledge to even host a wine tasting – is there a better way to meet someone?
“I need to go shopping!” said every woman, ever. We’ve all said or heard it, and we all know that when it comes to clothes, the word ‘need’ is grossly overused.
So how to tell the difference between wanting to treat yourself to something cute and an actual need for new clothing? Let’s visit a few scenarios where ‘need’ might actually be used in the literal sense.
1. It’s Easier to Dress for Halloween
Go-go boots? No problem. Sequins and feathers? You’ve got plenty. While your Halloween game may be as strong as Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 90’s, you’ve still got 364 other days to worry about. It’s totally fine to keep some stellar statement pieces tucked away in your closet, but try relegating them to under 1/10th of your sartorial collection. Once you’ve cleared away the baubles, it’s time to work in some new goodies for those days that don’t require a costume.
2. Your Friends Won’t Borrow Your Clothes
Let’s try a little test, shall we? Invite your most stylish friend over and offer her full access to your closet. If she politely declines or tries to change the subject, it’s time to upgrade. The more uncomfortable she is, the faster you should run, don’t walk, to the nearest mall. If you’re not quite sure where to start, bribe your friend with churros to come with you. Works every time.
3. You’re Twinning With Your Pre-Teen Niece
Sure, twinning is in, but dressing identically to someone who has yet to pass her driving test? Not so much. While keeping a youthful attitude is something to be applauded, your wardrobe should reflect a general age range – yours! If you can spot every piece you own at a One Direction concert, you might be ready to work in a few new items.
4. Your Shirt Has Its Own Twitter Account
If you wear the same article of clothing too often, there’s a chance people might end up knowing you more by your shirt than anything else. And when your shirt is more famous than you are, that means it’s time to expand your regular outfit rotation. Here’s a great rule of thumb: if your shirt is in more than three of your social media profile photos, it’s time to swap in a few new options.
5. Climbing Kilimanjaro Is Easier Than Getting Dressed
If getting dressed in the morning feels like climbing a mountain, it’s time to rethink the process. Aside from lack of coffee, the culprit to sartorial stuckness can often be not having the right items for your everyday routines. Work at an office? A new blazer can suddenly make a camisole work-appropriate. Meeting friends for brunch? Pair that cami with a new maxi skirt, and you’ve got a totally different outfit. Bring on Kilimanjaro, you’ve now got the outfit for it!
6. You Wore Your Nicest Dress to Prom
While that pink one-shoulder tulle gown may have scored you a slow dance with the cutest boy in school, it might not work the same magic at a wedding or cocktail party. Say sayonara to ‘Prom Queen’ and hello to ‘Best Dressed’ by kissing that prom dress goodbye and scoping out a sizzling LBD. Not only are you set for any last minute events, but the jaws will hit the floor at your next high school reunion.
7. You Have Nothing to Wear
Your bedroom looks like an atomic bomb went off, with garments strewn across the floor in a fit of desperation. You’re sitting in the middle of a large pile of clothes, lamenting that you have nothing to wear. Sound familiar? You’re not alone! While you obviously have the ability to clothe yourself from the piles of despair that surround you, they’re just not the right clothes. So what do you do? Ditch those suckers for some snazzy basics you’ll want to wear over and over again.
8. People Think You Own One Pair of Pants
Keeping a uniform a la Steve Jobs is definitely efficient. Having to explain to everyone that no, you don’t just own one pair of pants but several pairs in the same style and color, is not quite as efficient. Adding a few new pairs to your wardrobe should help keep those rumors at bay. Which means you can get back to being the visionary you truly are.
Couples who want to apply for a marriage licence in Beijing will have to dress smartly in future, or risk being turned away.
Beijing’s Civil Affairs Bureau has announced a new rule stipulating that couples won’t be issued a licence to wed if they show up in shorts, T-shirts or other casual wear, the state newspaper Beijing Daily reports.
The bureau’s marriage registration director, Han Mingxi, says people aren’t showing sufficient respect for the process. “It is not unusual to see couples registering in shorts and slippers. It shows their carelessness and disrespect for marriage,” he tells the paper. “From one glance you can see that marriage registration is being treated as a casual affair, and this is prone to many problems.”
Coming into effect on 1 July, the new rule is part of efforts to tackle the capital’s divorce rate. Mr Han says his bureau is currently analysing a large number of divorce cases, and asking experts to “propose methods and ways to promote marriage and family happiness”.
China’s divorce rate has been rising for more than a decade: in 2015, the government said that 3.6m couples ended their unions during the previous year. Beijing had the highest rate among cities, with 55,000 divorces in a single year.
There has been a mixed response to the new rule among Chinese social media users. “Marriage is not child’s play, it should be dignified,” writes one on the Sina Weibo microblogging site. But others think applying for a licence shouldn’t have to be a big deal. “What if a young couple want a low-key event?” asks one user, who thinks that applying for a licence is “simply a boring and tedious process” anyway.
The British drink more than 60 billion cups of tea a year – so what is it about this humble brew that refreshes them so?
Whether they take their tea with milk, sugar, lemon or just plain, it’s clear that the British have a fondness for its flavour. There’s something about that firm bitterness that sparks devotion: the British consume 60 billion cups per year, according to the Tea and Infusions Organisation. That’s more than 900 cups a year for every man, woman and child in Great Britain – though we no doubt all know someone who likes many more than that.
Tea has become entrenched in the British way of life, from the humble tea break to the high tea to be enjoyed – in a jacket and tie, of course, gentlemen – at the very swankiest of London hotels. But what are the molecules behind the taste of this beloved beverage? And does how you take your tea say something about who you are?
To answer that, it’s worth first trying to work out what it is exactly that makes tea taste the way it does. Tea’s flavour is intimately affected by how it is grown, processed, and brewed – beginning with the light. Tea bushes – Latin name camellia sinesis – are grown in terraces all over the tropics and subtropics. But if the intent is to make certain kinds of green tea from them, like matcha, growers will make sure they are carefully shaded with nets or mats. Less sun causes them to produce more chlorophyll as well as fewer polyphenols, a class of molecules that imparts tea’s singular astringency.
Of course, some of us may like that taste, and tea processing can amp it up. After the new leaves and buds have been plucked from a bush, they are laid out to dry. How long they lie again depends on the kind of tea intended. For green teas, the leaves are almost immediately tossed in a hot pan or steamed (tea might look like the rawest of edibles, but it is actually cooked, or at least heat-treated). An oolong results when the leaves are dried a little, bruised and only then cooked. And a black tea – the most popular variant, accounting for 78% of the tea drunk world-wide – results when the bruised leaves dry quite a long while before being finished in the pan.
What’s behind all this is that as the tea leaves are drying, enzymes native to the tea plant are busily transforming simple molecules into more complex ones. The longer the tea spends drying, the longer those enzymes have to work – and the more these molecules build up in the tea leaves. The most famous in tea-chemistry circles is probably theaflavin, a tangle of carbon rings responsible for some of the ruddy colour of black teas as well as some of the astringency.
Firing the tea leaves calls the process to a halt by destroying the enzymes. As a result, there’s very little theaflavin and related molecules in, say, green teas. But aside from polyphenols, hundreds of other compounds build up in the tea over time; their roles in crafting tea’s bouquet and taste are not yet clear. Regardless, the end result is a different chemical profile for each kind of tea.
Given how much tea people drink, there’s growing interest in understanding whether this habit has any medical benefits. It appears that molecules found in tea can protect cells in a dish from some kinds of damage, but despite copious research, there is conflicting evidence on whether tea-drinking provides benefits beyond warm hands and an alert mind.
Because, of course, there are the stimulants. Brewed tea has roughly half the caffeine of an equivalent volume of coffee, but it is still plenty for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. You might have heard that caffeine in tea gives a different high from the caffeine in coffee. Many studies have found that if this is the case, it’s because of an amino acid called theanine, which occurs in tea.
When volunteers consume both caffeine and theanine – versus caffeine and other tea molecules – they show moderately more alertness and better ability to switch between tasks than with caffeine alone. The amount in a given cuppa may not be the same as the doses given during a study, however, and the effect of theanine is not enormous. But all on its own, the caffeine will give you a nice lift.
So that’s what makes tea taste how it does (not to mention energise its drinkers). But why do these melanges of molecules mean so much to British people? And what does your preference, in terms of tea type and how you drink it, mean about you?
Anthropologist Kate Fox writes in her book Watching the English that there are several clear messages sent whenever a Brit makes a cuppa. She observes that the strongest brews of black tea – with the largest doses of these molecules – are typically drunk by the working class. The brew gets progressively weaker as one goes up the social ladder.
Milk and sweetener have their own codes. “Taking sugar in your tea is regarded by many as an infallible lower-class indicator: even one spoonful is a bit suspect (unless you were born before about 1955); more than one and you are lower-middle at best; more than two and you are definitely working class,” she writes. Other rules involve when and how milk is added, if any. Making a point of drinking smoky Lapsang Souchong with no sugar or milk can be a sign of class anxiety in the middle class, Fox suggests: it’s as far as possible as one can get from sweet, strong, milky mugs of the no-nonsense ‘builder’s tea’.
As for why the British drink an infusion of imported dried leaves at all, there are historical reasons aplenty for why tea came to wash up on Britain’s shores. And one could come up with any number of rationales for why the current state of affairs was inevitable (boiling water to make tea, for instance, made it less likely to give you a stomach bug).
A food scientist I once corresponded with pointed out something that seems to apply here. “In my opinion, food choices are driven by one’s environment – the context,” he wrote. You like what you like not necessarily because of any intrinsic quality, though obviously one can develop a taste for almost anything. A food or drink’s real importance in your life may be because of everything the surrounds it – the culture of it.
The people who are thriving and will continue to thrive in this era are those who are agile and skilled at changing easily and elegantly in response to their changing environment, and as they proactively create more of the life they want. So here are some tips to help you become more agile:
Accept yourself exactly as you are
I know that sounds totally counter-intuitive, but the paradox is that when you try to change yourself from a perspective of negative judgment of yourself, your self-criticism will make you feel bad, which will have a negative impact on your motivation.
Attacking yourself with self-criticism will also activate your stress response, which actually changes the biological functioning of your brain and body and reduces the flexibility and quality of your thinking. This in turn uses up more of your energy, makes you think and behave defensively rather than proactively, stresses your body out and makes you tired and even ill.
When you accept yourself, you stop fighting yourself and your relaxed state will improve your motivation and the flexibility and quality of your thinking. This makes it much easier for you to make your changes – and to enjoy the process of making them. We think and perform much better when we’re in a state of love, rather than fear. Love opens our hearts and minds and we change much more easily when we have open hearts and minds.
Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want
We have a natural tendency to focus on problems and sources of stress in our lives. And, this makes sense – we do it because we want to “keep an eye” on potential threats so that we can respond more quickly, and ensure our survival. This usually is a good strategy for ensuring survival but it’s not a good strategy for thriving.
Focusing on what you don’t want will elicit your stress response and close down your thinking, making it more difficult to think creatively when you respond to the threat. Knowing, and focusing on what you want, rather than focusing on what you don’t want is also important because it’s the beginning of getting familiar with what you want.
Get familiar with what you want
We move towards what’s most familiar, and we resist what’s unfamiliar. If you’re familiar with how your life has been or is, but the way you want your life to be is unfamiliar and vague, then a part of you will resist going towards the unfamiliar and you will seek to repeat your current habits.
Because you’ve survived by doing what’s familiar, a part of you assumes that familiar is safe, even if it doesn’t make you happy. Guess what, if we ever feel that we have to choose between safe and happy, we’ll usually move towards what’s safe. So, to dissolve your own internal resistance, get familiar with being the way you want to be by going their mentally, and filling out the detail even before you start making your changes.
Focus on changing your thinking, rather than focusing on changing your behavior.
Our behavior flows from our emotional state, which is informed by our thinking patterns and the stories we tell ourselves. So discover the thinking patterns and stories you’ve been using that have prevented you from already having the life you want and being the person you want to be. You can do this by asking yourself,“What have I been assuming that’s prevented me from having what I want?” And then question those assumptions, ask yourself what other assumptions are possibly true in that context, and choose to operate under those liberating assumptions instead.
Focus on the feelings
Ultimately, it’s feelings we want and we only want other stuff because of the feelings we think it’ll give us. So become aware of the feelings you’re seeking. This will have two great results: first you’ll have what you ultimately want right now rather than having to wait till you’ve changed your circumstances. Second, by feeling the way you want to feel, you’ll be getting familiar with the changes you want to make, making it easier to make those changes without your own internal resistance.
Break your change into small, achievable steps you can take on a daily basis
It’s much easier to make change incrementally than it is to make major changes in a few areas of your life all in one go. This is because more change means more unfamiliarity and the greater the unfamiliarity, the more likely that a part of you will resist the changes and try to go back to what’s familiar.
Focusing on big changes can also cause overwhelm and stress, which closes down your thinking, causing de-motivation and making it harder for you to make your changes. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the changes you want to make, break your changes into small steps and focus on doing only the next step that feels achievable and liberating.