Taking a lunch break allows us to rest and ready our bodies and minds for the rest of the day, and denying yourself this opportunity makes for a rather stagnant afternoon. Research has found that working through lunch and opting not to take a break has a negative impact on work efficiency.
Refusing that chance to refuel prevents us from keeping up a consistent quality of performance from morning to evening. So take this opportunity to reclaim your lunch break, and observe the benefits that come from it.
Not everybody realises how long hours of desk work change the ways our bodies and minds work. When your eyes are cast down for hours on end, staring at an artificially-lit screen while sat in the same position, it sends messages to the brain for our bodies to feel low and drained, and makes us go into a sort of sleep mode.
Staying still for long periods of time causes excessive pressure to various parts of the body – especially the joints and muscles – and prevents proper digestion of food. For this reason, taking a lunch break or stretching and get the body moving again is very beneficial.
There are many benefits to taking a well-earned lunch break. You don’t necessarily have to do “nothing”, but do something that gives your body and mind the chance to refresh itself. People often advise others to “sleep on it” when they have a significant decision to consider. Work is the same, and taking a break actually stimulates the brain, giving you far more likelihood of having those “lightbulb” moments.
Here are some ideas as to how you can get more out of your lunch hour, in ways that will invigorate your body, mind and spirit.
(1) Allocate one lunch break on a weekly basis that you will spend getting to know someone at work that you haven’t had much interaction with. Having work relationships is a significant factor in workplace wellbeing and companies whose employees get along well have been found to have far less stress.
(2) Practicing mindfulness, meditation and hypnosis has been found to be very good for us in a number of ways, especially with regard to rebalancing the emotions, reviving the mind and opening up the creative centre of the brain. Spending ten or 15 minutes a day on this can make a huge difference.
Find somewhere quiet and calm, away from your desk, and take a few deep breaths. Allow passing thoughts to flow through your mind without you thinking any further into them. Look up some relaxation techniques as they can work wonders.
(3) Eating at your desk is far from ideal and can even be a direct cause of digestive problems and weight gain. When under stress, our bodies are not as efficient at digesting food, so choosing lunchtime to address an important email or finish up a proposal is a bad idea. Also, take care to eat at a steady pace and chew your food thoroughly in order to avoid digestive problems throwing your day off track.
(4) Take the opportunity to give your finances a going over. Money is one of the most notorious offenders when it comes to causes of stress, so use the time to overhaul your finances. Maybe you can identify areas where you could be saving money. Taking control of areas of life that cause stress can have an immensely calming influence.
(5) Why not establish an office yoga or pilates group? Gentle exercise is a great way to rejuvenate. Sessions as brief as half an hour can really work wonders when it comes to prepping the mind and body for the demands of the afternoon. Even if your colleagues aren’t interested, find a quiet room and do it alone; you will soon see how much difference it makes to the rest of your day.
(6) Another good way to get gently active and reset your brain is taking a walk at lunch. Not only is it good for the body and mind, but it also gives you the opportunity to give thought to the various issues in your life. Doing this also helps your brain warm up for the afternoon. Consider a few “How can I…?” questions. This not only exercises your brain to expand and think critically and creatively, but helps you to overcome problems rather than simply worrying about them.
(7) Picking up new skills and learning new things are an enjoyable and progressive way to exercise the mind while giving it the chance to rest and recuperate. One of the factors that can make the working day so draining is that it is often not very enjoyable, so lift your spirits by learning about something that you feel a natural affinity with.
You will enjoy the time spent, as well as getting a sense of pride at having achieved something new, and this is a great way to kick off the afternoon.
Karen Meager and John McLachlan are co-founders of Monkey Puzzle Training
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