Gimme A Break

Chris Delany

Partner

The Importance of Taking a Lunch Break

Did you take a lunch break yesterday? How about today? Chances are, you’re shaking your head no. And you’re not alone. Fewer Americans are taking lunch breaks these days. Instead, they’re snacking and eating meals at their desks rather than in a break room or outdoor picnic area.

Research reports that one in five people take the time to step away for an organized lunch break; even fewer get outside the office for some fresh air and sunshine. But is eating lunch at your desk really a good idea? Could there be drawbacks that can affect your health and well being?

Researchers say yes.

The longer you spend at work, the more important it is to take a lunch break. Even if it’s just a few minutes away from your desk in the fresh air, it’s worth it. When you don’t take a break, creativity takes a hit. Staying in the same spot hinders your ability to think outside the box and prevents you from running into that “aha” moment.

Now, if your job doesn’t require creative thinking, you may be able to skip out on lunch breaks and not see a drop in performance. (Although we still think all jobs require some fresh perspective.) However, if your job involves thinking on your feet, as most do, it’s crucial that you take a few minutes away from your desk to indulge in a turkey sandwich and kick up your feet.

Let’s explore a few key benefits for carving out time for a lunch break each day.

Boost Brain Function

Your brain needs nutrients to thrive. Even if you’re trying to lose weight with all the sitting you’re doing each day, it’s still important to eat something to keep the productive juices flowing. Some of the best picks for brain-boosting function include dark chocolate, nuts and seeds, tuna fish, blueberries, raw carrots, avocados and whole grains.

Also, instead of downing mugs of coffee all day long, switch to water and a piece of fruit in the afternoons. Fresh fruit can give you a bigger energy boost than coffee, so you have no excuse not to perk up your diet. Try these energy-enhancing fruits: bananas, papayas, oranges, strawberries and pineapple.

Develop Greater Concentration

You may think that taking a break will shatter your concentration, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Of all the ways to set yourself up for a great afternoon, taking a short break may be one of the best. Just 15-20 minutes of time away from your desk is a proven way to sustain concentration and energy levels. You deplete your psychological resources throughout the day, so stepping away for new scenery is an excellent way to replenish them.

Relax the Mind and Body

You may not be in a position to break out the yoga mat and begin a meditation session in the middle of the office, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a few minutes of time to rest your mind and body. Just a few minutes of mindfulness can have a huge impact on your mental and physical state. Some of the benefits include lowered blood pressure, reduced stress and better sleep patterns.

The best way to practice mindfulness is by focusing on what you eat. Put down the phone; look away from the TV. Your lunch should be the center of your attention. It may sound strange, but these few minutes can help you digest your food better and make you a more efficient worker. Give it a try.

Connect with Nature

Sitting in the break room is a nice way to depart from your office space, and it gives you the chance to catch up on the latest workplace gossip. But even better than that is having your lunch outdoors. Studies consistently show that being outdoors is a surefire way to refresh our attention spans and restore our energy levels. If you happen to work nearby a green, natural and open space, take advantage of it.

Stimulate Creativity

Creativity and innovation thrive when we move to a new environment. In fact, you can probably think of a few instances when you achieved a new way of thinking or saw something in a different light thanks to switching scenes. That’s why many people will take a walk to clear their minds. They get rid of their old way of thinking and are able to see things in a new way. Get yourself out of the office to foster creativity.

What You Can Do During Your Lunch Break

Aside from giving yourself some time to relax and restore your energy levels, you can put your break times to good use. Here are a few ideas of what you can do on your lunch breaks.

  • Work on a side project. Choose something that will help relieve stress, not create more of it. Ideas include knitting, coloring, researching recipes or contributing to your personal blog.

  • Start a book club. Invite your coworkers to start a book club, and generate a list of good books to read. They could be purely for fun, or maybe they could be work related. Discuss the book outdoors, weather permitting, several days a week during your lunch break.

  • Learn a new language. Learning a new language is hard to do unless you carve out dedicated time each day to do so. Put your lunch breaks to good use by using this time to practice a new language. Plan a future trip to help boost your commitment.

  • Meditate. Meditating can help reduce stress and enhance concentration. Focus on your breathing, chant a mantra and let the stress fade from your life.

  • Call your family. Your mother would love to hear from. So give her a call. You don’t have to worry about her taking up all your time since you only have a short time to give. But the thought you put into the call will be well appreciated.

  • Have some fun. You don’t want to get fired for this kind of stuff, so definitely use your best judgement here. But if you have a workplace that isn’t afraid to have some fun in their off time, there are many things you can do. Fly a remote controlled helicopter around the office on a Friday afternoon. Decorate your cubicles to match the time of the year. Build a fort out of all the used boxes in the back (hey, you’re recycling, right?). Get a friendly game of “I never” going.

Conclusion

Don’t look at your lunch break as an inconvenience. It’s not. It’s also not meant to take you away from your work. Lunch breaks are crucial to your success in the workplace, and you shouldn't work through them. They are built into your schedule to refresh your energy levels and take a new perspective on an old project. Make it a commitment to take more breaks throughout the day, and encourage your coworkers to do the same. You may very well see a shift in the tone and mood of your workplace by doing so.

About the Author: Chris Delany
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