Are you one of the 70 per cent of Brits who rarely take an hour for lunch? If so, you could be clocking up an extra 10.5 days per year at work. Research by Bupa shows more than half of British employees consider their workload too large to take a break, and a third feel under pressure from their boss to work through. But you may be hindering your efficiency – researchers in Berlin discovered that eating at your desk can make you more stressed and sap creativity. Here are some activities to help you fall back in love with your lunchtime.
Five minutes: Musical meditation
Sometimes we all need a little extra Zen in our lives. Music therapist Anythony Hall suggests downloading guided relaxation music to help regulate breathing and reduce tension. Best of all, you can listen to it wherever you are.
10 minutes: Learn on the go
Kill two birds with one stone and learn something new while stretching your legs. Whether you’re strolling through a park or the streets near your office, check out audible.co.uk, where you’ll find more than 100,000 audio books, or head to the iTunes podcast library for free podcasts. To boost those all-important pub-quiz credentials, visit stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts, which covers everything from crop circles to sharks.
15 minutes: Get picture perfect
Practise your iPhone camerawork and have a blast at the same time by taking part in one of the ‘photo missions’ by clever app EyeEm (free on iPhone). Take and submit a photo based on the weekly theme – from breathtaking buildings to people in love – for a chance to win prizes. It’s a great way to get outside and see things from a different perspective.
20 minutes plus: Work out
Yes, it is possible to fit exercise into your lunch break. Keep your kit at work and pack a nutritious lunch the night before. Your activity can be as simple as a walk or run around the streets. Alternating bursts of high energy with an easier pace will help you get the most from your activity. Lunchtime exercise classes are popular, and you don’t have to commit to membership: try The Gym or payasugym.com.
30 minutes: Set up a lunch club
A 2008 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that socialising with colleagues makes us more productive. So why not start an official lunch club, and eat together once a week? Take turns to provide the food – check out healthy recipes at Tesco Real Food.
35 minutes: Browse a local market
Check when markets are held nearby (try your local council website), then go and soak up the sights, smells and sounds. Browse craft or flower stalls or sample street food for a refreshing change of pace.
40 minutes plus: Feed your brain
Check whether any local galleries, museums or universities run free talks or lectures to give you some food for thought in your lunch hour. Some institutions also offer online archived talks. Try University of Glasgow, Leeds Central Library, National Museum Cardiff and University College London.
45 minutes: Find a paw pal
Many local animal shelters need ‘cuddle volunteers’ to give cats and other small animals the interaction they need to prepare them for re-homing. And it works both ways as research shows that just a few minutes of stroking an animal can lower blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. Find out more at rspca.org.uk (over-18s only). Don’t forget to take a lint roller.
50 minutes: Find romance
Dating website lovestruck.com has recently reported a 22 per cent rise in the number of women choosing to date in their lunch hour. To meet potential love matches, visit onlylunch.com. Give it a go and you could soon find yourself whispering sweet nothings over your sarnie.
60 minutes: Watch a free concert
Listening to a live performance in your lunch hour can really lift your mood. For a useful starting point, try list.co.uk, or check out The Barber Institute, Birmingham, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester and St Mary’s Heritage Centre, Gateshead.
Top tip: Diary date
Once a week, schedule your lunch hour as if it’s a meeting. Block the time out in your diary or calendar, and try not to let colleagues disturb your downtime.
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