Six ways to get more out of your lunch hour

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It’s a real shame that we have got to a point at which eating at your desk has become the widely accepted norm in the workplace.

It’s not just unhealthy – picture all of the germs festering in the depths of your keyboard growing from crumbs and dropped food! Shake things up and start making an effort to eat lunch away from your desk. Research has found that working through your lunch breaks, and allowing them to be another seamless hour sat at a desk, leads to lower productivity at work, so put a stop to it – it’s time to take back your lunch hour and make it work for you, your life and the company you are a part of.

When sitting at a desk, our bodies and minds are being subtly instructed to feel low. Downcast eyes combined with hours of staring at a screen causes us to be more introverted, and direct our feelings and emotions back inside, rather than expressing them, leading to a bottling up that starts eating away at us. Furthermore, sitting still for hours at a time puts our bodies under excessive pressure, impacting healthy digestion, and joint and muscle function. Taking just a few minutes every hour to stretch your legs and get moving can make a huge difference to how you feel at work.

Taking a well-earned break from the working day has a number of benefits that span our bodies, minds and emotions. You shouldn’t necessarily look to ‘do nothing’ for an hour to contrast eight-plus hours’ hard work, but more to allow your mind a period of relief. Consider the old adage of ‘sleeping on it’ when there is a difficult or significant decision to make – the same principle applies to giving yourself a period of rest at work. The brain is much better stimulated following a period of rest, and this is often how those ‘lightbulb’ moments take place.

Here are some tips to making more of your lunch hour which will stimulate your mind, body and spirit:

Take one lunch per week to spend with someone you work with but haven’t ever got to know properly. A happy working life hinges quite significantly on enjoying strong or at least amiable relationships with colleagues, and companies who have close-knit teams experience considerably lower rates of stress.

Regular practice of meditation and mindfulness have been confirmed to have a refreshing effect on the brain, rebalancing the emotions and making the creative centre more accessible. Giving fifteen minutes of your lunch hour to meditation or other relaxation techniques are a great way to heal from the morning and prepare for the afternoon. Find a quiet spot away from your desk, where you can breathe deeply, be still and calm. As you notice thoughts coming to the forefront of your mind, quietly recognise them before letting them drift away again. Mindfulness and meditation are simple and free ways to rejuvenate your entire being.

As we’ve already mentioned, eating at your desk is far from healthy, for a number of reasons. Our bodies do not digest efficiently under stress, making the centre of your work life the worst place to take a supposed break. It is important to eat in a relaxed state, to allow your body to make the most of the nutrients you are giving it. Smartphones and other devices mean you can enjoy an episode of your favourite show or listen to music to help you unwind at lunchtime. Don’t forget not to rush eating, to avoid feelings of nausea in the afternoon.

Revamp your finances. How competitive are the rates your energy provider gives? Where in your monthly outgoings could you be saving money? How is your pension plan looking? Have you made any investments, and if not, is that something you could give some thought to? Finances are the top cause of stress, so taking the opportunity to regularly review ingoings and outgoings gives you more feeling of control, allowing your brain to relax and spend your spare time doing more productive things.

Start practicing fifteen or twenty minutes of yoga at lunchtimes. You may even find people who are interested in joining you, in which case you could ask a local yoga professional to come in once a week and conduct the sessions for you. Gentle forms of exercise like yoga and pilates enable you to get active while avoiding messy hair or sweaty clothes in the afternoon.

If yoga or pilates aren’t quite your thing, a simple fifteen minute walk is a great way to break up the working day, and allow your brain a rest. It also gives you a great opportunity to make progress in other areas of your life by just thinking and asking yourself questions. Posing ‘how can I…’ questions are a good way of doing this, and putting the time to good use. For example, “How can I communicate myself in a clearer way?” or “How can I ensure I am able to contribute fully to the next project?” Asking yourself questions is a good way to conquer background stresses and to open your mind up creatively, making it more receptive to new ideas.

Karen and JohnAbout the authors

Karen Meager and John McLachlan are the co-founders of Monkey Puzzle Training and co-authors of Time Mastery: Banish Time Management Forever (£12.99, Panoma Press); a number one best-selling book.

Karen and John take the latest scientific and academic thinking and make it useable in everyday life. Both have successful business backgrounds for over 20 years, are clinically qualified in psychotherapy and hypnotherapy and two of only a handful of NLP Master Trainers in the UK.

Karen and John have a unique gift in helping people both in their business and personal lives to move beyond Time Management to become ‘Time Masters’, allowing them to develop an approach to time that is efficient and fits in with their unique personality. Too often, people are controlled by other people’s priorities so Karen and John help people to take back that control, by understanding how their own preferences, style and interests impact their use of time.

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