It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and to mark the occasion, I’m sharing four easy ways you can improve your mental health on your lunch break. These are quick strategies that you can pull out anytime you feel that you need to take a moment to unwind or notice your stress levels creeping up.
The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness. It’s a habit we often practice for others but rarely apply to ourselves. Dedicating some time to step away from your desk at lunch to unwind and release tension is a wonderful way to show yourself some kindness. Working on your mental wellbeing, even for just a few minutes each day, will make you more productive, give you a clearer head for better decision making and help to keep anxiety and stress levels in check.
The best news? You don’t need any special equipment or tools to reap the rewards of these wellbeing strategies.
1. Leave your desk and go for a walk
Are you often guilty of eating your lunch at your desk? Either to carry on working or scroll through social media? According to researchers in Sweden, leaving your desk and taking just a 30-minute walk a few times a week helps to reduce tension and increase relaxation. The study’s lead scientist, Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani said, “Lunchtime walks improved enthusiasm, relaxation, and nervousness at work.”
You may also find that getting some fresh air helps you to feel more energetic, clears your head of negative thoughts and gives your mood a boost.
2. Download a meditation app
If you can find a quiet place during lunch to sit and be alone, why not try meditating? You don’t have to have done it before either, everyone has to start somewhere after all! There are lots of great apps available now which you can download to your phone to walk you through a beginner meditation session. Some of the most popular include Headspace and Calm. Try a couple to find one that works for you. All you need is somewhere peaceful, your smartphone and 10 or so minutes of your lunch break.
The benefits of meditation are many, some are spiritual and some have been scientifically proven. According to The Harvard Gazette, “Studies have shown benefits against an array of conditions both physical and mental, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder …there are a handful of key areas — including depression, chronic pain, and anxiety — in which well-designed, well-run studies have shown benefits for patients engaging in a mindfulness meditation program.”
3. Find a lunchtime workout class
It’s well known that exercise is good for both mind and body. Many gyms and wellness centres now offer lunchtime workout classes so you can get moving and be back at your desk on time. Try yoga, pilates, tai chi or body balance.
4. Take your lunch to the park
If you’re lucky enough to work close to green space (or if your office has gardens outside) grab your sandwich or Tupperware and find a spot in the park to have lunch. Being around plants and immersed in Mother Nature is known to be relaxing. If you feel yourself getting especially stressed, tensed or annoyed, just sitting and eating surround by lush greenery can help you to find a happier headspace.