Thursday, February 11, 2016

Take your Lunch Break… It’s Good for You!

In today’s world, it is often believed that if you put in more hours at work and take less breaks, that it makes you a more dedicated employee. That you can get more accomplished.

This couldn’t be further from the truth!

Research shows that only one-in-five employees takes an actual lunch break, leaving approximately 81% of employees eating at their desks or not eating at all. But why do we do this?

The truth of the matter is that not taking a lunch break can be both mentally and physically bad for you. Tom Rath, author of the book Eat, Move, Sleep said “What you do at lunch can either make or break the rest of the day.”

So myself and a couple of my coworkers decided to start taking a regular lunch break {#lunchclub} and see what the benefits are. Here are four things that I discovered:

1. You’ll Feel Recharged, Happier & More Productive

When you plough through your lunch break while sitting at your computer, your brain doesn’t get a chance to switch off and regroup. When this happens, you can almost guarantee an afternoon filled with being tired, not thinking clearly, and lowered productivity. Stepping away during your lunch break can help your brain refresh and fire on all cylinders.

An article on productivity published by the New York Times captured the importance of taking breaks perfectly. “The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.” In short, by taking a break you will feel refreshed, invigorated and ready to take on the afternoon’s challenges.

Not only does taking a lunch break allow you to recharge, but it also allows you to spend time with friends and co-workers. Sharing a laugh with them is a guaranteed mood lifter. Getting to know them better builds a closer bond for the future. By taking a break with colleagues, you also build strong relationships at work that will lead to increased productivity, as well as higher levels of job satisfaction and engagement.
2. It’s Good for Your Health & Body
I'm sure most doctors will tell you that sitting for extended periods of time is not good. It not only impedes your circulation and puts strain on your spine and muscles, but it can also lead to poor posture and overall discomfort. A University of Leicester study also found that the more you sit, the higher your risk will be for diabetes and heart disease. Hence why it is so important to get up, move around, stretch and burn some calories during your lunch break.

Stepping away from your computer is also great for your eyes.  Staring at a bright computer screen for extended periods of time can not only irritate your eyes, but can also cause tension headaches and some serious migraines.

On top of the physical strain on the body, a recent study also found that eating while continuously distracted led to consuming more during that meal. Not only do you eat more, but you tend to eat less healthy. The reasoning behind this study is an application of a broader approach to living called "mindfulness." It involves being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment. By paying attention to what you are putting into your mouth, you are more likely to make healthier food choices, and you will enjoy meals and snacks more fully.

3. You Don’t Have to Eat Lunch during your Lunch Break
Just because it’s called a lunch break, doesn’t mean you have to eat lunch during that time. If it’s a nice day out, take a walk around the neighborhood. Grab a coffee with friends. Run some errands. Go to the gym. Since I work for an animal welfare nonprofit, sometimes I’ll visit some of the dogs and cats available for adoption at the adoption center (#workperks).

Of course, you can actually eat lunch during your lunch break. My coworkers and I don’t have many options, so we will eat in the conference room or the kitchen. However, every Tuesday we will walk to Starbucks in the afternoon for a coffee instead. Once in awhile we will go out to eat. Sometimes we will do our own thing if one of us has a different schedule that day. The main goal is to step away from your desk!
It is worth noting, that if you choose to eat lunch outside of your lunch break, make a conscious decision of what you plan to eat in advance. Otherwise, you may fall into a poor state of "mindfulness" as described above in #2, thus eating too much or unhealthy.

4. The World Will Not End
My main reason for often not taking a lunch break was because I thought no one else was doing it. I thought I would feel guilty. The truth is that nobody really cared. If anything, my coworkers would say how they wish they took more breaks!

So for those who wish they could take a lunch break but feel that they can't, I pose this question: What do you think is going to happen if you don't take your break?

Moral of the story? Take your lunch break... It's good for you!

Image via Michael Graydon for Bon Appétit

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