On any given day, my typical lunch break looked like this: Right around noon, I'd start feeling a little groggy and unmotivated. So, I'd step away from my computer for a half hour or so, make myself something quick to eat, and watch something in my Netflix queue.
Sure, I was technically taking a break -- I stopped eating at my desk long ago. But, I'd still return to my to-do list feeling even more unfocused than when I left. Something about my lunchtime routine wasn't working for me.
At that point, I decided to try something different. As a result, I began going for a walk after I ate my lunch. It's nothing long or extreme. Instead, I just leash up my dog and go for a stroll around the neighborhood (provided the weather is nice enough).
I didn't expect it to make that large of a difference on the way I approached my afternoon. But, in all honesty, I've been surprised with the results. Doing that one simple (and enjoyable!) thing over my lunch break has been a huge benefit for a variety of reasons.
1. It incorporates a little more physical activity into my day.
Like you, I've heard all of the warnings about how "sitting is the new smoking." Sitting for long periods of time has been linked with obesity, as well as an increase in risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.
While I make a conscious effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of my normal working hours, sitting and staring at my computer for hours on end each day would still take a physical toll. When I'd wrap up my work, I was fatigued and my muscles would feel cramped and tight.
No, going for a short walk isn't an intense form of physical exercise. But, it's better than nothing -- which means I can end my workday feeling a little less sluggish and slow.
2. It gives my eyes a break.
Sitting aside, I also felt my eyes getting tired. I'd spend at least four hours starting at a screen in the morning -- only to take my lunch break and stare at another screen.
Too much screen time can have detrimental effects. The resulting eye strain can lead to eye irritation, dryness, fatigue, and blurred vision.
When my eyes were already feeling bleary by the time lunch rolled around, I figured the last thing I should continue doing during my break was to park myself in front of the t.v. and scroll through my phone.
Going for a walk and getting out into some natural light gives my eyes a much-needed (and well-deserved!) break.
3. It gets my creative juices flowing.
You know the feeling when you're totally stumped? You're stuck staring at that menacing blank page or blinking text cursor -- without a single nugget of an idea you can cling to?
Previously, I'd force myself to rack my brain and power through. However, I've found that stepping away and going for a stroll really helps to get my creative juices flowing.
From article ideas to solutions to problems that are stumping me, I find I'm always struck with some sort of stroke of genius while walking my dog around the neighborhood.
It makes sense, really. Studies show that regular exercise can boost your creative thinking.
Plus, a change of scenery is refreshing. One Columbia Business School study even found that international travel increases the neuroplasticity of your brain, making it easier to come up with new ideas.
No, you might not hop on a plane during your lunch hour. But, getting out for some fresh air and a literal change of pace can still yield somewhat similar results -- after all, it can't hurt!
You might not have the luxury of working from home like I do. But, that doesn't mean you can't escape your desk for thirty minutes and get some walking in.
Step outside and walk around your office campus. Or, take your lunch to a nearby park for a midday stroll. Take it from me, that one small change to your lunchtime routine can make a big difference.