The Miracle of Lunchtime

Posted on August 2014 By Speller International
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If you’re getting slammed at work, sometimes a break is the furthest thing from your mind but while it might seem counter-productive to step away from you desk for a few minutes, taking a break is the best thing to do when things are crazy on the job – for you as well as your productivity.

Research conducted by ING Direct in July found unsurprisingly that Australians are skipping lunch, eating at their desks and catching up on personal admin in ever-increasing numbers. Almost one in three (28%) of people habitually eat at their desk; 33% are skipping lunch entirely once or more a week; and 10% work through their lunch break. And that’s bad. Here’s why.

Lunch breaks give us the chance not just to eat healthy food but to get outside, get active, get to know our colleagues and can be to take care of personal things like errands, grocery shopping, or heading to the post office. All these things are huge stress relievers and, as we all know, stress is bad for your health. But what we might not know is that stress and over-extending ourselves affects the quality and the quantity of the work we produce. Healthy, happy people do more work that is of a higher quality than those who are stressed and under-nourished.

So let’s break down the facts so it’s easy to see that taking a break is better for you as well as for your work.

Eating healthy food boosts your brain – and your output at work

While studies can be quite mixed on what specific foods improve concentration, what is well known is that not eating fresh and healthy foods regularly drains your body of the essentials it requires to function properly – which affects your concentration and the quality of your work.

And when good brain foods include chocolate, how can you go wrong? So whats on the menu for lunch:

  • Foods high in Omega-3 (such as fish, eggs and nuts). These help to reduce cholesterol, treat high blood pressure and assist with a number of brain functions, plus loads more. They truly are a super food.

  • Nuts, seeds and dark chocolate. These guys are full of antioxidants that slow cognitive decline. Dark chocolate is also a natural caffeine stimulant, perfect for when you need a mid-afternoon boost.

  • Avocado increases blood flow to the brain and is packed with good fats.

  • Blueberries are also full of antioxidants, and they’re believed to improve learning and muscle function, too.

  • Raw carrots provide much needed ‘good’ glucose for brain function. What’s up, Doc?

  • Whole grains are jam-packed with dietary fibre, which is crucial for good digestion and helps prevent a range of cancers.

Exercising reduces stress, clears your mind and boosts your attention span – especially if you do it near nature

It’s no secret that walking away from your desk, even for a few minutes, can recharge your mind and allow you to see difficult tasks with ‘new eyes’. Even better for re-setting your attention is getting out into nature at lunchtime: to the park, or even just near some trees.

Research shows that the stimuli of nature grabs attention in the opposite way to how work does, allowing you to replenish and prepare for a busy afternoon. Best of all, if you combine enjoying nature with exercise (say with a 30 minute walk around a park), you’ve met your daily exercise minimum, too.

Even if your office isn’t handy to the great outdoors, walking on your lunch break is a great way to re-focus and shake off those cobwebs, clearing the mind for an afternoon of productivity. Which brings us to…

Running errands is a great way to sneak exercise into your day

If there isn’t a patch of green to be seen outside your office, your lunch break is a good time to take care of things that can’t be done outside standard business hours (like a trip to the post office or the bank). Doing errands on your break reduces stress on weekends as you have more time to enjoy you day off, and it gets you away from that computer screen and into some fresh air. Just remember not to overdo it, the purpose it to re-charge, not run yourself ragged.

It’s OK to make friends

Getting to know your colleagues better boosts your collaborative output but it also makes you feel good. Your lunch break is a fantastic time to learn more about the interesting and unique stories each of your workmates has to share over a healthy bite to eat.

When you’re under the pump, taking a break is often the last thing on your mind. But try to take a step back and look at the bigger picture: stress, bad food and a lack of exercise and human interaction are all major contributors to physical and mental illness. Have a break, enjoy a healthy bite to eat, have a chat with a colleague and rest assured that your health is an investment both you and your employer will be glad you made.