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The Importance of Lunch Breaks

Amidst a fast-moving society that barely seems to stop or slow down, lunch breaks in the workplace are becoming less and less common. In order to keep up with the hustle and bustle of their jobs, many employees choose to skip their optional “time off”—and some companies are even encouraging them to do so.

To some, skipping lunch is a sign of importance. Their self-confidence is boosted knowing the company depends on them so much that they can’t even stop working for long enough to eat a sandwich; their work is so valuable they can’t bear to stop producing it.

However, what many of these workers and companies do not consider is how their long days can be harmful to their mental and physical health.

Get Out of Your Chair

Whenever possible, try to get up, stretch, and take a walk—even if it is just to the water cooler on the other side of the office. If you have the luxury of taking a longer lunch break, go outside for a stroll. Sitting for long periods of time has detrimental effects on your body and your lifespan1; moving just a little bit more each day, especially surrounded by nature, can significantly improve your health, mentality, and productivity.2

In order to increase concentration while you are working, take your lunch break away from your desk. This allows your brain to associate your workspace with what it’s named for—work! Separating leisurely activities from obligatory duties will make you more inclined to do what you are supposed to do in each respective location.

Eating with others can also improve your mood. Lunch breaks in the workplace can enhance company culture via employee relations, boosting morale in the office and making it a more desirable, comfortable place to work. People will feel a more personal connection to the company and be motivated to put forth their best effort.3

Food is Fuel

Not only do we need breaks in order for our brain to be at its highest level of function, we also need fuel. Some forms of fuel can be delivered via sleep or food. Since sleeping while at work may result in termination (unless you work at a company such as these

Big names committed to their employee wellness), food is usually the go-to option to recharge your brain.

Your brain runs on glucose, and your ability to focus dwindles unless you have a sufficient amount of sugar in your blood.4 However, this doesn’t give you a free pass to make the receptionist’s candy bowl your new hangout. Rather, opt for complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes or brown rice, which will be converted into glucose in your body, serving as that precious source of brain fuel.

You’re probably familiar with the saying “You are what you eat.” While you may not literally turn into that Twinkie you ate for lunch, you will perform like one. Eating foods high in saturated fat promotes cognitive decline. Conversely, brain foods, such as blueberries (a rich source of antioxidants) or fish (high in omega-3 fatty acids) enhance learning and memory.5

Food is crucial to enhancing your focus. Have you ever gone on a diet to lose weight for a wedding, vacation, or reunion? If so, you probably experienced caloric restriction, accompanied by a fixation on food. Simply put, if you’re hungry and don’t let yourself eat, your body will not work efficiently until it receives the fuel it needs,6 and your brain will focus on hunger pangs rather than the work in front of you. In order to work productively, you must silence those hunger signals by—well—eating!

Practice Mindfulness

While eating your lunch, practice mindful eating. This means that when you eat lunch, you aren’t mindlessly shoving bite after bite into your mouth as you binge a Netflix show or scroll through your Twitter feed. Instead, unplug and focus on the task at hand: eating. Not only does this cause you to eat less because you can listen to your body’s natural satiation signals, but it also trains your brain to focus on a single task, thus resulting in increased productivity when you return to your desk.

So, rather than turning a day’s work into a non-stop grind, remember to take a break mid-day to recharge, allowing you to come back to your tasks with more energy, concentration, and

happiness,7 which will improve your productivity significantly.8 Trade in that Big Mac for some grilled salmon, and you may even finish tomorrow’s tasks, too!

1Owen, Neville, et al. “Too Much Sitting.” Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, vol. 38, no. 3, 2010, pp. 105–113., doi:10.1097/jes.0b013e3181e373a2.

2Steinborn, Michael B., and Lynn Huestegge. “A Walk Down the Lane Gives Wings to Your Brain. Restorative Benefits of Rest Breaks on Cognition and Self-Control.” Applied Cognitive Psychology, vol. 30, no. 5, 2016, pp. 795–805., doi:10.1002/acp.3255.

3Altman, Yochanan, and Yehuda Baruch. “The Organizational Lunch.” Culture and Organization, vol. 16, no. 2, 2010, pp. 127–143., doi:10.1080/14759551003769284.

4Gailliot, Matthew T., et al. “Self-Control Relies on Glucose as a Limited Energy Source: Willpower Is More than a Metaphor.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 92, no. 2, 2007, pp. 325–336.,

doi:10.1037/0022-3514.92.2.325.

5Walsh, Julie. “Brain Candy: Focus On Foods That Fuel Your Mind And Memory.” Environmental Nutrition, Mar. 2002, p. 1. General OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A86203598/ITOF?u=lom_umichanna&sid=ITOF&xid=f071670a. Accessed 30 May 2018.

6Sheldon, N. (2018). What foods you eat can affect productivity at work. Rochester Business Journal, 33(40), 14-15.

Retrieved from http://proxy.lib.umich.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/docview/1987358207?accountid=14667

7Sianoja, Marjaana, et al. “Enhancing Daily Well-Being at Work Through Lunchtime Park Walks and Relaxation Exercises: Recovery Experiences as Mediators.” Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 2017, doi:10.1037/ocp0000083.

8Bennett, Andrew A. “Take Five?: Examining the Impact of Microbreak Duration, Activities, and Appraisals on Human Energy and Performance.” VCU Scholars Compass, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Commonwealth University, 24 June 2015, scholarscompass.vcu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=4949&context=etd.

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Article written by:

Alex Schweitzer

Marketing Intern

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