The 7 Most Relaxing Ways to Spend Your Lunch Hour


Find yourself working through your lunch break? Are you stressing out about what's left on your to-do list when you should be resting and re-energizing? You're not alone. (See also: The 10 Most Productive Ways to Spend Your Lunch Hour)

Starting today, set all that aside — 60 minutes of downtime never hurt anybody, after all — and learn how best to de-stress and re-focus on your lunch break.

1. Leave the Office and Have Lunch With a Friend

The most common way to leave the stress of work behind during lunch is to leave the workplace altogether. Plan a lunch date with an available friend and put your place of business out of sight and out of mind.

"If you're stuck at a desk from 9:00 to 5:00, and most of us are in that position, use your lunch break as a way to escape from the feeling that your day is owned by Corporation X," says Kevin Barrett, a Chicago-based psychotherapist. "You know that friend who works from home or recently quit their day job to freelance? Encourage them to come meet you near your workplace for lunch. The time away from your desk spent with a friend will help remind you that your life belongs to you. Let that energy carry you all the way to 5:00 p.m."

2. Connect With Your Co-Workers on a More Personal Level

You see the people with whom you work on a daily basis, and you spend more time with them day in and day out than you do with your own friends and family. But that doesn't have to cramp your style. Turn this forced "friendship" into the real thing by getting to know your work mates better. You might have more things in common than you think.

Jacel Egan is a media-relations coordinator for the startup TechnologyAdvice, and this practice is commonplace at her office.

"What I find to be the most relaxing during lunch is learning more about what my teammates do outside of work," she says. "We have an open office environment and are fortunate to get catered lunches four times week, so most of us eat in the break room. Finding out what others are interested in, what concerts they attended, or where they went hiking last weekend can spark conversations that provide a midday mental break. If the weather is nice, many of us will sit out on the patio and enjoy the sunshine as well."

3. Meditate and Focus on Muscle Relaxation Techniques

Sure, meditation at work is a little New Age-y (my old office hosted yoga at lunchtime, so it's not that farfetched), but the medical benefits of meditation have been proven time and again. Combine this quiet time with muscle relaxation techniques for a double whammy of mind, body, and soul exercises.

Jennifer Erickson, a nationally certified counselor and owner of ReFocus Counseling, recommends some short relaxation techniques to her clients.

"There are many free [progressive muscle relaxation] videos on YouTube and they range from six minutes up to 30 minutes," she says. "Progressive muscle relaxation is the process of tightening muscles and then relaxing them. This is an excellent way to wake up the body and loosen muscles that get tight from sitting in one position. People that either sit at a desk, behind a counter, or stand in the same stance for several hours can benefit. Not only does this loosen up the body, [but] it clears the mind of everything going on, allowing the individual to recharge and get ready for the second half of their day."

4. Exercise Outdoors With a Coworker or Friend

I used to walk around my office park with a few co-workers on nice days, so I can vouch for Scott Crabtree, "chief happiness officer" at Happy Brain Science, when he suggests that we keep it movin' at lunchtime.

"According to the science of happiness, the best possible lunch break is to exercise outdoors with a friend," Crabtree says. "This gives us three happiness and brain-function boosts."

Physical Activity

The data indicates this boosts brain function and mood. Exercise is as effective as antidepressants in treating depression in the long run. Even a walk at a relaxed pace counts.

Social Connection

The quality of our relationships is a key factor in our happiness. Happiness boosts productivity, creativity, resilience, health, and success.

A Real Break From Work

Studies show we need time away from screens, and in a new setting, and that time outdoors refreshes us in unique ways.

"The eating part of our lunch break can happen at the end of the workout, when we feel we've really earned it with the exercise," Crabtree adds.

5. Become One With Nature — If Only for Half an Hour

Turning our constantly connected lives on silent for a half hour a day during lunch isn't a bad idea. It can be quite soothing to free your mind of all that whirling technology and add something a little less demanding to your day.

Marketing manager Christine Morales live nears the coast and she takes advantage of her good fortune on a regular basis.

"My all-time favorite way to relax and spend my lunch hour is sitting on a bench and watching the ocean, waves, and sometimes people," she says. Hearing the roar and crash of waves is exhilarating; the sparkle from the sunshine on the ocean is mesmerizing. Don't live near the coast? The next best thing would be a park with grassy area to sit and enjoy a quick meal either reading a book or just enjoying nature and listening to all wonderful sounds Mother Nature and urban areas provide."

6. Escape Into a Good Book

Fiction books provides a fantasy world to which you can travel for an hour or so, but if nonfiction is your personal preference that's okay too. The important thing is that you're calm, collected, and concentrating on relaxing during "me time."

"Everyone's tastes are different, but I personally prefer fiction — something that actually pulls me away from whatever story is developing about my own day in the office and into an entirely different world," says Jamie Netzer, content editor at The Zebra. "It doesn't have to be much; even 20 minutes of story is enough to be a small emotional recharge for me. The distraction of my phone is not enough, because I want to be emotionally and mentally engaged in something that is ultimately without consequence in my real life. Fiction fits that bill perfectly."

7. Drop Everything You're Doing and Look at Photos of Baby Animals

You're probably like, "Whaaaaat? That's silly!" — and you're right, it is. But wouldn't you know, looking at photos of baby animals is a scientifically proven method of helping you relax during lunch so you can be more productive later in the day.

According to research by Hiroshima University, looking at cute animal photos can increase fine motor coordination and attention to detail. During the course of the study, subjects were shown photos of baby animals, adult animals, and delicious looking food before being given a test. Only the group shown photos of baby animals recorded a marked increase in coordination and response time.

If you want to get in on this action, check out The Cute Contest app, which will probably keep you occupied longer than it probably should. But, hey, at least you'll be relaxed and ready to attack the rest of the day.

How do you relax and recharge at lunch? Take a break and let us know in comments!

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Meet your partner at home for a quickie!

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Renee K

I like the article. These are very useful and practical tips on how to relax during your lunch time. I am going to give some of these a go!