Self-Care Saturdays: The Science of Taking Breaks
As a blogger, I often get caught up writing, with the world around me disappearing into the background. Before I know it, hours have passed, it’s dark outside and it’s time to start dinner!
Most people would probably say they’re too busy to take a break, opting to eat lunch at their desk as they tackle their ever expanding to-do lists! We tell ourselves that skipping breaks allows us get more done. Meanwhile, we become cranky, dissatisfied, and lacking in motivation.
Yet, being mindful about how you spend your time has it’s many benefits. Indeed, breaks make you happier, more focused and more productive, and are vitally important for your wellbeing. What’s more, scientifically proven reasons break taking is good for your wellbeing are numerous! Join with me as we explore why you should make taking breaks a habit:
Breaks help us focus
There are times when the ideas are flowing and you’re really in the groove. Nothing can stop you! Yet, hours pass and eventually, you go past the productivity zone, causing you to feel unfocused, stressed and even irritable. The human brain wasn’t built for extended focus that is requires so often these days. The good news is imposing brief breaks actually help you to stay focused on your task, especially when faced with long tasks, such as doing your taxes or preparing a presentation.
Breaks help us problem solve
Our brains have two modes: a focused mode for learning new things, writing or working, and a diffuse mode, for you are more relaxed or daydreaming. Although the focused mode is important for productivity, the diffuse mode plays a key role too. Studies have shown that when are brains are wandering off into a daydream or doing a mindless task, we are often able to tackle the stickiest problems. Breakthroughs that seem to come to us out of the blue are often the product of diffuse mode thinking. As such, when we are daydreaming, our brains are relaxed and are able to be creative and insightful.
Breaks help us reach our goals
Taking a break allows us to step back mentally from what we are doing and re-evaluate what we are doing. By focusing continually on the same task without a break, it’s easy to lose sight of what you are trying to accomplish. However, when you return to where you left off, you are able to come back to your task with fresh eyes and are able to assess if the work you are doing is actually what you’re wanting to achieve. Breaks helps us stay mindful of our objectives.
How to take a break
You’ve realized the importance of breaks and how they help us regain our focus, sharpness and motivation. Indeed, without any downtime to refresh and recharge, we’re less efficient, make more mistakes, and get less engaged with what we’re doing.
So, now that you’re ready to make a habit of integrating short breaks into your day, here are some ways to make make the most of your break time:
Work in small bursts, taking a short break every hour
Plan for 5 or 10 minutes break each hour
Set a timer on your computer or smart phone, or utilize one of the many free productivity apps available as a reminder
Stick to your work/break schedule, and don’t hit the off button
Stand up, stretch, walk around, go outside, look out the window, chat with colleagues in the break room, eat a healthy snack, doodle, listen to music, read, meditate, laugh
Always take your designated lunch break and never eat lunch at your desk
Utilize any other designated breaks
Take a walk outdoors, or better yet a short nap!
Do not use the internet for breaks, such as browsing social media, allowing your eyes to have a break
Do you take breaks regularly throughout the day? If so, what’s your schedule like and how do you use your break time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!