Ideally lunchtime--the hump of the workday--should involve a change of scenery. For one thing, eating at your desk while you continue to work makes for a long and sedentary day.
With a bit of intention, lunchtime can be a great way to recharge so you're primed for a great afternoon. Here's how workers around the country are making the most of midday.
1. Get horizontal. Desk workers tend to slouch, which compresses the spine and ribs, impedes proper breathing, and tightens neck and shoulder muscles. "Laying on your back in semisupine position with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor for 10 to 20 minutes allows the muscles of your neck to release, your chest and shoulders to widen, and your whole body to undo tension built up throughout the morning. You rise feeling light, open, and destressed," says Los Angeles--based Sharon Jakubecy, who teaches people how to have a powerful presence and communicate confidently through something called the Alexander Technique.
2. Wiggle like a kid. Minneapolis-based chiropractor and yoga and Pilates instructor Martha DeSante suggests getting your hands on an adult-size Hula-Hoop, finding a spot where you won't break anything, and hooping in both directions "to bring more balance to your body and brain," she says. "Hooping lets you shake off the stresses of the morning, getting your creative and inspired energy flowing so you can tackle your afternoon agenda feeling refreshed and renewed."
3. Sing. Think about it--it's nearly impossible to feel bad when you're belting out a tune. Not only that, the pulsing of the vocal cords causes a physical vibration that actually works to calm the body. That's according to Minneapolis- and Los Angeles--based Ariella Forstein, chief empowerment officer with the Ariella Approach, which she uses to coach business people and performers how to increase their confidence and find their authentic voices. Not comfortable singing in the office? Forstein suggests trilling in your car.
4. Learn a foreign language and then plan an overseas trip to practice. According to New York--based career counselor and executive coach Roy Cohen, many study options are perfect for lunch, whether you're learning online at your desk, in your car on a mobile device, or with others in a language practice meetup group. "If interrupted, it is easy enough to explain, and it is a good career booster," he says. "You appear motivated and disciplined, and proficiency in a foreign language may be beneficial to your work. And a reward like an overseas vacation is likely to keep you focused."
5. Meet new business connections. "I'm a big fan of networking over lunch," says Cory Jones, CEO of San Francisco--based DINKlife.com. "Meet someone new, rejuvenate your passion for what you do, and get to know someone else's story. I've done several lunches with letslunch.com and had good success."
6. Jump on a trampoline. It's a little-known fact that Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park has more than 30 locations across the U.S. You can jump and flip to your heart's content for as little as $8 per half-hour. Check out this video, in which plenty of grown adults are doing it.
7. Get creative. "Pull out some glitter, glue, markers, paint, or paper, and make something," says Alyson Dias, who works for Fresno, California--based iLoveToCreate and says it takes only a few minutes to make plenty of creative projects.
If crafts aren't your thing, any creative endeavor will do the trick. Arash Afshar, podcast host at San Diego--based CrappyAwesome.com, heads to the coffee shop over lunch: "I am an artist, so I'll usually work on some music on my laptop or sketch something in my sketchbook. A small sense of creative accomplishment gets me energized to power through the rest of the workday."
8. Give yourself a mini spa experience. Kristen Brown, Minneapolis-based author, speaker, and coach on stress management and work/life harmony, says self-pampering works for both sexes: "Rub some essential oil of your choice on your temples, and rub a little into ends of hair to condition. Apply some rich hand cream to your hands, elbows, and other dry areas; dab on some eye cream; and turn on your favorite music. Then take 10 deep breaths through the nose slowly. Bend over in your chair and get the blood flowing with some stretches. Also, be sure to have living plants in your desk area," she says.
9. Take it to the rink. Mia McPherson, marketing manager for Dublin, Ohio--based OnGuard Systems, says, "Our latest favorite rejuvenating lunchtime activity is ice skating. We found a place near our office that does an indoor skate from about 11:30 to 12:30. We'll pack a lunch that day and eat in the office so that we can use the lunch hour to skate. I also like that on skate days, I get my exercise and don't have to drag myself to the gym after work."
10. Exercise outside with a pal. "The science of happiness indicates that exercising with a friend, ideally in nature, combines three things that will boost our mood and creativity," says Scott Crabtree, chief happiness officer for Happy Brain Science in Portland, Oregon.
11. Unplug from technology. This sounds simple, but it is remarkably difficult for some people to do. "Connecting with nature for your 60-minute lunch will reboot your brain. Try it and watch what happens," suggests John Dowd Jr., Cambridge, Massachusetts--based author of Heroes Mentors and Friends.
12. Make a game out of it. Flynn Zaiger, CEO of New Orleans--based digital marketing and advertising agency Online Optimism, suggests playing board games with co-workers (try Balderdash or Cranium) to spark creative juices.
Bob Bentz, president of Advanced Telecom Services in Wayne, Pennsylvania, says people in his office play basketball at 12:30 p.m. on Fridays in the spring and summer. "It's a great team-building event," he says. "It also does a great job of bonding the younger and older employees that don't normally hang out together."
13. Ramp it up. "My company has a five-story parking garage, and on my breaks, I will walk the garage, starting at the bottom, doing a complete circuit on each floor, and walking up and down the ramps. I do this on my morning and afternoon breaks, as well as lunch," says Clearwater, Florida--based paralegal Hope Rising.
14. Volunteer. "I've been spending my lunch breaks when I don't have meetings or prior engagements at the local soup kitchen, helping to serve food and hopefully brightening someone's day...So far, it's been very rewarding in that I've made some new friends, and it affords me the opportunity to help someone turn their life around," says Jacob Baldwin, search-engine-marketing manager for One Call Now in Troy, Ohio. He also plans to do some resumé coaching at the soup kitchen in coming weeks.
16. Juggle. "Juggling is a great way to reenergize during lunch, and I love that you can do it right in the office or outside on a nice day," says Heather Wolf, founder of JuggleFit in Brooklyn, New York. "Not only is it a light cardio exercise; it also clears your mind so you can come back to work tasks feeling refreshed and focused. And, of course, it's fun." Not sure you can pull it off? Here's a primer.
17. Go to a salon. A blowout--you know, a shampoo, blow dry, and style--will make any woman feel recharged. And both sexes can reap the relaxation that comes from a manicure or pedicure--usually they come with massages.
18. Read a book. Ideally, it would be something escapist, although driven types might feel better getting through nonfiction or self-improvement reads. Whatever you read, do it somewhere other than your desk, ideally near a window or outside in the sun.
19. Take a nap. The biggest challenge with this one is: where? If your office doesn't have a sofa somewhere private, you can always recline the passenger seat in your car and take a quick snooze there. Set your phone's alarm to wake you within a half-hour. Longer naps can actually make you feel worse.
20. Be a street musician. Josh Aguilar, a Web designer for TopSpot Internet Marketing in Houston, suggests taking a musical instrument to a nearby park. "Get away from the screen [and] take a container for your tips," he says.
21. Go home and connect with your kid (or dog or cat). Whatever creature is waiting for you at home will appreciate the attention, and you'll get recharged spending a few minutes with someone or something you love. Ashley Morris, CEO of Capriotti's Sandwich Shop, says he makes a habit of taking a full lunch break to go home and play with his infant son. Doing so helps him unwind and remember why he works hard every day.
22. Feast on art or books. Martha Bartlett Piland with MB Piland Advertising and Marketing in Topeka, Kansas, says you're likely to find her at the local art gallery or library over lunch, where she "drink[s] in the stillness."
23. Get in the moment. According to Amy Jo Martin, founder and CEO of the Las Vegas--based social-media consultancy Digital Royalty, people spend nearly half of their lives recalling the past and fretting about the future. What keeps people in the present is blocking out a few minutes a day for "Ready, Set, Pause," a concept the company came up with that encourages people to make time for a daily mental break. Ideas for this time-out from stress: Listen to good music, dance, pray, call someone to tell him or her you love him or her--whatever keeps you in the present and distracted from your worries.
24. Get a furry fix. "Go to a pet store and pet the animals or if you happen to be near a place that has animals; watch and enjoy and calm your mind," suggests marriage and family therapist Lisa Bahar, who's based in Dana Point, California.