What pops into your mind when I say 'lunch'?
Do you think of long, leisurely and possibly boozy times with friends?
Or do you think of brushing crumbs off your computer screen as you eat a sad sandwich at your desk. Again.
If your lunch is more like the second version, then take a read, because if you don't take a proper lunch it's having a negative impact on your health, productivity, and creativity.
It's almost become the norm to skip a lunch break, with only 1 in 5 people taking a proper break, yet a break of just 15-20 minutes has been proven to sustain concentration and energy, making it by far the better option.
Did you know a 15-20 mins lunch break has been proven to boost concentration, energy, productivity & creativity? #Lunch
So if you run your own business or work from home, take note! It really is a false economy to work through.
But no one else takes a break
If you're employed and the culture is to work through lunch, you may be worried about possible negative consequences of taking a break.
This blog 'Can't take your lunch? Yes you can' by Nesrin Everett for The Huffington Post takes a look at the pressure felt to work through, and the importance of taking a break.
And in this blog What happened when I took a lunch break every day for a week? by Alyssa Spatola for The Huffington Post, she takes a break away from her desk every day. It's an interesting read, take a look.
You could read those in your lunch break...
What to do in your lunch break?
It's lunch, so you'll want to eat.
Firstly, please don't be tempted to skip lunch if you are trying to lose weight, it's a false economy. You are more likely to get over hungry and just grab anything. Also, small, regular meals keeps that metabolism ticking along.
Rachel Linstead is a nutritionalist and works with companies to promote wellbeing in the workplace. She says:
'Making the right food choices at lunch time will pay dividends later in the day ensuring you don’t get that mid-afternoon energy drop.
Choose a lunch which is nutrient rich rather than calorie rich – Salads in summer & vegetable based soups in winter. Make sure there is also some protein in there too, protein helps to fill you up, keeps you fuller for longer, it also helps to regulate energy release so you don’t get peaks & troughs in energy.
Also have a drink of water, most people are dehydrated most of the time, being just 10% dehydrated can have an impact on brain function!'
2. Eat mindfully
When I worked in an office, I'd eat my lunch early, mainly through boredom. If I did manage to hang on till lunchtime I'd work and eat almost absentmindedly, snatching mouthfuls when I could.
When I reached my last bite I'd be shocked - okay, who ate my food?!?
Taking a proper break and eating lunch means you can really enjoy your food. But why not go a step further than that?
Eating mindfully is basically the opposite of eating absentmindedly. It's about appreciating all aspects of the food - the appearance, the aroma, the feel, the texture, the taste. It's about fully experiencing each mouthful, chewing slowly. Food becomes a pleasure again.
Mindful eating has many benefits:
- Increased enjoyment of food as you properly taste and appreciate what you're eating
- Reduced overeating: eating more slowly allows your body to signal when your appetite has been satisfied
- Improved digestion: Thorough chewing helps to start to whole digestive process off well
Mindful eating also helps if you have a difficult relationship with food: emotional eating, binge eating, yo yo dieting etc, as it encourages you to enjoy your food but recognise your bodys hunger and satisfaction signals.
Try it for a week. Eat without distraction, and fully experience each mouthful.
3. The great outdoors
Probably the most simple and effective thing to do is find a nice green space outside to sit and eat. The burst of fresh air and being in nature will really refresh and energize you, not to mention a welcome hit of vitamin D.
4. Cafe nation
The weather isn't always going to play the game, certainly not here in the good ole U of K, so a comfy local cafe is a great place to relax in, and it's also easy to do an activity there.
And after you've eaten, a walk - a slow meandering wander or a brisk purposeful march - will do you the world of good. It helps to revive and re energize, getting the cardiovascular system working which becomes so slugging sitting at a desk for hours.
Which is great, because I've heard that 'sitting is the new smoking' - meaning it's so bad for us to spend hours sitting at a desk, so a walk - no matter how short - will give a much needed boost.
And again, you can incorporate mindfulness into your walk. Allow yourself to become fully aware of your surroundings using all your senses - what colours are there, what sounds. Can you feel the sun on your face, or the wind in your hair? The scent of coffee bars, or the hot dog stand?
Being fully present in the moment is an amazing experience and helps to reduce stress.
Phone, tablets and MP3 players make this so easy!
- Listen to an Audiobook - there are 100's to choose, from romance to thrillers and everything in between. (Amazon currently has a 30 day free trial, so you can see if it's for you - and get a free book! Gotta be worth a try?)
- Listen to a podcast. Again, something for everyone, from comedy to decluttering your home. Here are 35 hidden podcasts you really should be listening to to get you going.
- Music streaming services like Spotify and Deezer give you the chance to listen to new music, as well as the tried and tested faves you already have. Put together a playlist or listen to other peoples for new ideas and inspiration. And of course, music has an enormous effect on us, so if you are tired and lacking enthusiasm, a playlist of banging tunes will pep you up for the afternoon!
7. Read a book
For pleasure or education, lunch time is the perfect time to read a chapter, and electronic readers like Kindle make it really convenient to slip into your handbag. They also have the added benefit of 100's of free books to download (which can also be downloaded onto your tablet).
Take a book to work, & read a chapter in your lunch break #MeTime
8. Get crafty
Indulge in your fave hobby.
Concentrating on an activity give you a break from any other worries you may have, so is an excellent way to reduce stress.
Adult colouring books are very popular. Shan Marshall, The Coloring Coach says: 'Colouring is great for lunch breaks. Just pop a couple of pencils and a design in your bag or pocket and you're set wherever you are.. Just a few minutes of colouring will help you let go and relax.'
Cross stitch, crochet, knitting, drawing, jigsaw puzzles - all perfect for destressing.
9. Take a nap
If you have a staff room, why not take a nap. A 10 - 20 min snooze will leave you feeling re energized and rejuvenated.
The art of napping is a great post to help you get the most from a quick nap, and includes a great infographic.
10. Write in your journal
Don't have a journal? Well, here's the perfect opportunity to start!
There are many many benefits to journalling - so much so, I give every new psychotherapy client a book and talk them through it.
Journalling helps you learn about yourself - your likes, dislikes - because if you don't know your needs, how can they ever be met?
Journaling helps to takes the fog of thoughts and feelings and make some sense of them, helping you to find peace and clarity, because the more you can get out of your head, the less stress you will feel.
All in just a few minutes a day.
If you'd like to give it a try but don't know where to start, take a look at 'How To Start A Journal', and I'll walk you through the whole process.
11. make plans
Holidays, days out, organizing your diary, planning a week's menu and making a shopping list, planning a party, an outfit, a garden, a decorating project... all perfect to do in a lunch break.
12. Online shop
So if you've planned your weeks menus but are like me and find pushing a trolley around a supermarket booooring, grab your tablet and shop online. It'll save you time, money - and you won't be temped by a delicious looking high calorie thingy on the shelves.
Word on the street is there are other types of online shops around. Who knew? Internet window shopping is fun! Internet actual shopping is also fun, but credit card bills are less fun :)
13. meet a friend
I love a lunch time meet up with friends. A chat, catch up, gossip and giggle all make for brightening your day.
We don't often get the chance to do nothing, we are often chasing our tails being busy busy busy (sounds like you? Take a read of 'If you're too busy to read this you should definitely read this) . But a lunch break is a space in the middle of the day you have permission to rest, so is a great time to power down, switch off and daydream. Let your mind wander to places you'd like to visit, things you'd like to do, where you'd like your life to be in 5 years time. Enjoy.
A lunch break is a perfect time to meditate. If you are an accomplished meditator that's great, but if not there are many guided meditations to try, anything from 5 minutes up. Tara Brach is great with many guided meditations to choose from, but search on Pinterest for lots more info.
Sitting for long periods isn't good for us, so taking a lunch break gives you the chance to do a few stretches and free up your body. Stretches to undo the effects of sitting all day shows some simple stretches you can do if you have a little space. (The squat stretch may raise an eyebrow if you do it in your works canteen!)
You could take this further and practice some yoga.
You don't have to go to the gym to get some exercise! Just doing a few exercises in the office (that won't get you hot and sticky) will get a sluggish circulation moving and wake you up. Try this - the ultimate 10 minute office workout and get moving
18. Pamper yourself
A lunch break is just right for a little pampering - a quick manicure, a facial, eyebrows tidied up, waxing.
19. Ring someone
If you're anything like me, you'll be knackered by evening (I don't finish work usually till 8pm) so a chat and a giggle can be a great lunch time pick me up and a chance to keep in touch.
20. Save a life
A lunch break is a perfect time to give blood. Nuff said.
How will you spend your lunch break?
I hope this post has given you some ideas for ways to spend your lunch break. Remember, just a 20 minute break will give you a boost, but if you're allowed more, take more. There are no extra brownie points for being a lunch time martyr, and you run the risk of becoming burnt out and stressed.
People have fought hard to make it law to have a break, and there are still many people in the world that don't have the right to a break. It's there for a reason, so do yourself a favour and use it!