In London there are thousands of things that could be done during a lunch break other than remaining at your desk, surfing the internet or scrolling numbly through social media, being presented with video after video of cats doing strange and wonderful things. Your lunch hour or whatever breaks you are able to pick up during your working day are very valuable recharge periods; your mind needs this time to re-stimulate and refresh so that your afternoons can be as productive as your mornings, however, remaining at your desk and continuing to stare at your screen is not the best use of this time.
According to Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, author and president of Humor at Work, “It’s critical to make the most of lunch and remind yourself that by taking a proper break you will accomplish more in the long run, and that productivity and creativity will increase, while your levels of stress and fatigue will diminish.” Although you may often feel you are under so much pressure that taking a break is out of the question, it is actually a whole lot more beneficial for your ‘to do list’ if you stop to recharge. Here are some simple and refreshing ways to spend your lunch, giving your eyes a rest from all those screens.
Take a Walk/ Ride a Bike – this one also allows for multi-tasking. If you’ve been meaning to go to the post office or the bank, you need to run to the shop or you’ve been wondering how long it takes to get to that great pub from your office on foot, then do these things during your lunch. If you don’t find much pleasure in walking then why not try riding a bike to get yourself moving? London’s Santander bikes are free to hire for 30 minutes and cost just £2 to top up providing a cheap and convenient way to feel the wind in your hair. Plenty of research has been conducted in to the negative effects of prolonged sitting and simply taking a short break to stand up and walk to the shop down the road will help you to get the blood flowing again with surprising health benefits.
Interact with People – whilst it may be difficult to express an interest in your neighbour’s weekend whilst you are swamped under piles of paperwork, taking a specified break to transform yourself back to human form and interact with people around you will work wonders for your stress levels, distracting your mind from your work for a short while. Or if your office is quiet on a particular day, make a phone call to a family member or friend you have been meaning to check in with, killing two birds with one stone.
Read a Book or Listen to an Audio Book – simple and variable, this is something that everybody can do with ease. Going to a calming environment such as a library to read would provide even greater benefits however, just going to the park or building’s canteen would also be great allowing you to lose yourself in another world, no matter what you’re in to.
Learn a Language – make it a private project or get together a group of people who would like to learn with you from the office and start your own lunch time meet up. Learning another language requires a lot of focus meaning your mind will be completely distracted from the work back at your desk, not to mention the fact that learning another language will open you up to a world of new possibilities.
Broaden your Horizons – throughout London there are a series of free lectures that are designed to stimulate your mind in a way that will really let you switch off from the office job. These lectures will also focus your thoughts on a new topic and engage your brain in a different way. University College London’s Lunch hour lectures and Bristol Watershed’s Lunchtime Talks are both regular, free and open to all.
Treat your Body – Many businesses are now tuning in to the fact that people are constantly on the go and every minute of their day is important to them. This is why places such as The Speedy Spa have opened up. This particular spa can be found at Mayfair’s Elemis and they offer 15 and 30 minute lunchtime beauty treatments for the busy lady. Offering everything from facials and power massages to waxing and brow services, they will have you returning to work relaxed and refreshed.
Go to a Gallery – London’s galleries and museums very often have free admission or at least showcase specific free galleries. This is a great and inexpensive way to spend your lunch hour, it will get you walking around as well as injecting some culture into your day whilst the quiet and calm atmosphere will help you unwind and clear your mind.
Visit a Park Event – Plenty of parks or green stretches across London provide much more than just a nice place to sit, although this is as good a reason as any to spend your lunch in the park, they often hold differing events throughout the year too. They are adapted depending on the seasons and include ice rinks in the winter and concerts in the summer, featuring live music, dance shows, acrobatics or many other entertainers out in the fresh air providing you with a very stimulated lunch hour.
Listen to Music – This is another way to distract your mind during lunch and it is one of the easiest things you can do! Distracting your mind, especially with calming music and relaxing sounds allows our muscles to subconsciously relax which in turn reduces tension and stress levels meaning you are better prepared to sit down at your desk and begin working again once your break is over.
Eat – Eating is the most important thing that you should make sure you do on your lunch break. Despite your setting or whether you try and squeeze in a good workout at the gm, your productivity, brain function and overall health relies on you having something to eat in the middle of the day. Dr Ian Campbell, former chair of the National Obesity Forum and former honorary clinical director of the charity Weight Concern warns, ‘When you feel hungry, it is because your body is telling you it needs energy.’ If you do not eat during your lunch break ‘your body starts to go into starvation mode, conserving energy by slowing your metabolism because of this you feel sluggish. You’re less able to make decisions and more likely to make mistakes.’ The healthier your diet the better you will feel during working hours however, it’s not all salads and vegetables, although they are highly important. A little bit of dark chocolate in your diet is actually great for slowing down cognitive decline due to the high antioxidants whilst the caffeine helps sustain concentration.
The idea that taking your lunch break is actually vital for health and work productivity is backed up by research published within the Journal Cognition. Researchers found that participants’ ability to recall a set of digits assigned to them whilst engaging in a vigilance task decreased dramatically overtime however, when sporadically performing the same vigilance task with regular breaks in between, this rapid decline in recollection abilities was averted. Researches attributed this decline to the fact that the brain fails to focus on the overall goal after long and consistent periods of work.
So, next time you find yourself sitting in same position at your desk after 4 long hours and decide to power through lunch to get that big task completed, consider how beneficial this is actually going to be in the long run. When your colleagues come back to their desks refreshed and crack right on with it whilst you are struggling to get that same niggling job done, you may wish you had engaged in one of our lunch time activities and refreshed your mind after all.