At this time of year, it’s easy to focus on ever busy work schedules instead of activities that help with balance. Here in Cardiff the weather is dreary and grey, and not particularly inspiring even in the lightest hours of the day. Leaving my desk and screens in favour for a proper break feels much easier on sunny days.
When I came across a book called Gone for Lunch: 52 Things to do in your lunch break (by Laura Archer), in the library recently it felt like a great opportunity to find some inspiration.
Here’re my 10 favourite ideas for lunch break activities, inspired by the book but specifically adapted to the needs of hybrid workers. The ideas in the book are divided into for sections: activities you can do while sitting, being active, inside and outside.
As most of us hybrid workers probably spend enough time sitting inside already, most of the activities on my list involve being active and/or outdoors, but there are two exceptions and I’ll start with those:
1 Take a nap
This is also in the book, and there are some useful tips here: aim to nap for between 10-30 minutes, don’t forget to set an alarm, and make sure you nap before 4pm and no later, to avoid disturbing your sleep in the night.
One of the nicest upsides of working from home is that there usually are much better places to nap than in an office or on campus, and, in my case, the presence of willing pets who are just as keen to cuddle up for half an hour as I am.
The book includes tips of trying desk yoga or to focus on ‘wish, pray, hope’ , so inspired by that, I am going to include meditation as a lunch break idea. There are plenty of apps out there like Calm or Insight Timer that offer free recordings, breathing exercises and timers to help engage in mindfulness and meditation.
Personally, I find coming to a complete stop and resting in stillness for a few minutes is a powerful way to reset for the rest of the day, no matter how or where I do it.
3 Green spaces
I really like the idea of visiting green spaces. The book suggests that “spending as little as 40 seconds looking out over green space can boost concentration” and goes on to explore other benefits for our physical and mental wellbeing of spending time in nature.
Depending on where you live and how much green space there is around you, looking at some maps of your local area will help you discover new green spaces close by, and help find new routes that you do not usually take.
4 Local Café
Adopted from the idea to visit local markets included in the book, you can visit (independent) local cafes which are close enough to where you live. Many of us find remote working from home can become quite lonely over time, and visiting local cafes or delis for an hour can help us reconnect with people and offer a change of environment.
5 Listen to a podcast
As a big podcast fan, I enjoyed reading the suggestions in the book for listening to podcasts during lunch breaks: start with short podcasts to find out what you like, look for podcast recommendations on blogs or sites you usually use, rather than charts within podcast apps to get more personal recommendations and make use of the broad range of subjects on offer to engage with different interests.
One problem I encountered unwittingly with podcasts at lunchtime, is that I gravitated towards ones related to work. Listen to podcasts became more like professional development or catching up with things I hadn’t had time to read or listen to during work, which was productive, yes, but didn’t provide the break that I need at lunch to recharge. If you are looking to disconnect from work and really relax, choose a podcast with a relaxing topic unrelated to work.
6 Take a photograph
As an avid taker of photographs, the idea to take a “take a carefully considered photograph” really chimed with me. The idea is to really focus on the colour, form, shape and composition of the photograph, and to take time over it. Practical tips include turning on gridlines, focusing on a single subject, using reflection and so forth.
This is an interesting activity as it’s completely flexible and can happen indoors and outdoors at any time. One I am going to try out for sure.
7 Local Wildlife
Another suggestion is to explore local wildlife, which could include taking part in activities like an online national butterfly count or bird watch, anywhere from gardening containers on a balcony, a nearby park or field.
8 Play with a pet or care for a plant
The most ‘local’ of animals for me are our dogs, and one of my favourite things to do during my lunch break is to play with the dogs in the garden. Hiding small treats for them to sniffle for or playing with their favourite toys and really focusing on them is a brilliant way to relax, and gives me a great sense of connection.
Given that I am also devoted to my plants, another way to take a proper break from my screen is to care for my plants. Regular watering, dead heading flower pots… whatever it is on any given day really helps me to stay away from my screens for a while.
9 Go for a wander
This one probably doesn’t need much explanation, and can easily combine with several of the other activities… walk while listening to a podcast, walk a dog, wander in a green space, explore your local area and so forth.
Or… for a complete change try a mindful walk. Really focus on the activity itself and avoid distracting yourself from what your senses tell you about your environment. Breathe easy and follow your feet.
10 Visit a Cemetery
My favourite moment reading the book was when I spotted “visit a cemetery” in the list of activities. Clearly, this is my favourite given that I spent years as an anthropology student in graveyards. For me, any opportunity to visit a cemetery is welcome.. so if you, too, like a bit of an explore through such spaces, then find your nearest one and enjoy your lunch break.