by G. John Cole
Taking a break should not be about switching your mind off, but rather about changing gears. Your soul is a complex thing: it thrives from being fed as much as from being rested – that’s what a good night’s sleep (and the occasional power nap) are for!
Apply the same mindful approach to your breaks at work as you do to your weekends off, and you will soon witness a change in the way you feel and work.
Mindful Work Break #1: The energy snack
Many of us have a tendency to delay eating at work until we’re so hungry that we end up wolfing down something we know isn’t good for us.
Listen to your body and pencil in time to assemble a healthy, tasty snack on your next spare five minutes. Fruit and nuts are a great choice – try appreciating the flavor and the texture as you eat, rather than filling your mouth while you scroll Facebook!
Mindful Work Break #2: Food for thought
Your brain will also respond to being fed with something better than the usual gossip columns and horoscopes.
Use an app such as Pocket to curate a reading list in advance, so that when you get a free minute it’s always easy to find something meaningful to read.
Mindful Work Break #3: A neck massage
If you work at a computer, it’s easy to forget that your body is made up of anything more than a pair of eyes, ten fingers and a demanding belly!
It only takes five to ten minutes to give yourself a neck massage, allowing you to reconnect with your muscles and your skin – and offsetting the likelihood of a stiff back at the end of the day.
Mindful Work Break #4: Rubik’s Cube
Ernő Rubik’s classic invention remains a colorful way to engage your brain and your hands.
Take five minutes out to toy with this fiendish puzzle, and you will sharpen your mind while forgetting your worries.
Mindful Work Break #5: The coffee run
If you work alongside other people, a great way to utilize a spare ten minutes is to take a swift walk to the kitchen or local café with a list of everyone’s preferred beverage.
It’s a great way to strengthen bonds in the office, and do something ‘selfless’ – while also stretching your legs and getting a change of scene. Don’t forget to savor that coffee shop smell!
Mindful Work Break #6: A brain workout… online
Websites such as Lumosity are packed with games that have been scientifically proven to improve your cognitive abilities and nurture your mental health.
Useful when you’ve left your Rubik’s Cube in your other bag…
Mindful Work Break #7: Tidying up
When you leave your workspace in a mess until the end of the day, you make it harder to clear up and less likely that you’ll be paying attention while you do so.
If you find yourself with a spare ten minutes in the middle of the day, try clearing up after what you’ve done so far. Focus on each item that you tidy away and consider the use that it has had in your productivity so far – it will help you feel more accomplished.
Mindful Work Break #8: Watch a TED Talk
Have you ever seen a TED Talk where the audience doesn’t give a standing ovation at the end?
The great thing about TED Talks is that they pack a new way of thinking plus the feeling that you can achieve anything into just ten minutes or so. Watch one with your afternoon coffee, apply the speaker’s approach to your own challenges, and you can get through the final stretch of work with an extra burst of creative energy.
Mindful Work Break #9: Go for a walk
Smell the air, listen to the sounds around you, and sense the quality of the surface beneath your feet. There are few less powerful mindfulness exercises than a simple walk outside.
Mindful Work Break #10: Call a friend
Hearing a voice that you don’t associate with work can be a great way to put what you do into perspective.
Give a friend or relative a call when you know you won’t be rushed, and let them know you’re thinking of them.
Mindful Work Break #11: Make a break date
Suggest to a colleague or a friend who works nearby that you take lunch or a cup of tea of tea together. We tend to get caught up in our own rhythm at work – eye contact and a good chat are excellent ways to bring us back down to Earth.
Mindful Work Break #12: Podcast
Podcasts make a unique cocktail of stimulation and relaxation. Close your eyes, listen to the calming voice, and think about what your favorite thinker has to say.
Mindful Work Break #13: Playtime
You’re never too old for games. With half an hour to spare, you and your colleagues can laugh, learn, and bond together with a competitive game of cards or chess.
Mindful Work Break #14: The real lunch
You’re not a machine. Lunchtime is not for refueling – it’s for reconnecting. If you have a kitchen at work, consider bringing in the separate components of your lunch and making it there instead of bringing it pre-packed. That way, you will better appreciate the ingredients and the change of focus.
Mindful Work Break #15: The professional massage
That neck massage was pretty good, wasn’t it? If you have a bit more time to spare, check in at the gym for a 20-minute session. Rest your mind, concentrate on body and soul.
Mindful Work Break #16: People-watching
Everyone needs to earn buck, but our jobs are meaningless if done in a vacuum. There’s nothing wrong with sitting in the park or a café for twenty minutes and watching the world go by – it’s a great way to tune your empathy and figure out your place in the world.
Thinking about that next break already? Have a think about this visual guide to productive work breaks, which summarizes these mindful break options in one easy-to-refer-to place.
What mindful work breaks do you have to add? Tell us below!