If you feel like you’re trapped in Groundhog Day — waking up to the same general schedule every day — you’re not alone. Our sheltering days are largely the same and lacking the opportunity to mix things up with different away-from-home activities. Whether you’re back in the office, working remotely, or working on and around the house, the monotony of the everyday can be crushing sometimes. We’ve researched five beneficial distractions for quick breaks that will leave you feeling refreshed when you return to whatever task you’re tackling. Plus, the science behind how each can help our bodies and minds stay tuned-up and energized day after day … after day … after day.
GO FOR A PHONE-FREE WALK
A walk is a super healthy and effective way to reset the mind and “shake off” the stress, fatigue, and apathy of the workday. Exercise of any kind releases endorphins that improve mood, but there are other benefits, too. Vitamin D is key to regulating calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Being outside also offers you a fresh perspective on things.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT: There is mounting evidence that being outside in natural places may actually stimulate the creative process rather than serve as a distraction. Our attention is like a muscle that can become fatigued if sustained on one specific thing for too long. Exposure to the outdoors can not only help the brain replenish its ability to direct attention, but it can also expand the scope of our attention to help us generate interesting ideas. (source)
PLAY WITH YOUR PETS/LOOK AT PETS
Goofy, uninhibited playtime with your pets is like chicken soup for the soul. “Playing tug-of-war with my pups immediately takes my mind off of work,” says Jenna Bratcher, SB Nashville’s lead writer. “It’s simply impossible to feel stressed while rubbing a puppy belly! For those without pets, watching silly puppy video montages can also be effective.” She’s right. If you don’t have any furry friends to hang out with at home, why not spend a few minutes researching different types of dogs you might want to adopt? Or you can watch some feel-good animal videos online. Some of our favorite accounts to follow are The Dodo, Animals Doing Things, Doggos Doing Things, and Round Boys.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT: A fascinating study showed that people who looked at footage of cute baby animals actually outperformed those who weren’t under the influence of cuteness. The theory is that this positive brain stimulation makes us more careful when we return to the tasks at hand. (source)
The coloring books for adults trend has popped up everywhere, and for many good reasons. Taking a work break with a canvas and pencils is a great way to recalibrate. Coloring books are chock-full of intricate designs, inspirational quotes, and some irreverent sentiments. You can even use pens to create your own functional art — don’t underestimate the calm-inducing effects of concentrating on coloring in patterns.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT: Coloring relaxes the fear center of your brain, the amygdala, and requires both hemispheres of your brain to communicate — logic helps us stay inside the lines, while choosing colors generates creativity. It also opens up your frontal lobe, which controls organizing and problem-solving, but it does this in a not-so-stressful way. It’s a certified stress reducer. (source)
UNCLUTTER ONE SMALL SPACE
While this might not sound like a break to some, it’s actually a great chance to mindlessly increase future productivity. Clutter competes for our attention and can be pretty detrimental to our work habits and general well-being. Focus on the junk drawer, the desk drawer, or even the freezer. You’ll feel happy and accomplished. SB TIP: This could also be a digital space. I love to clean up my desktop folders, clear my cache, delete unnecessary apps, or unsubscribe from a few needless email lists when I need a quick break. I always feel more organized and refreshed after my desk, my screen and my inbox are tidied up.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT: Aside from being an eyesore, clutter can also lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. According to Psychology Today, clutter distracts us, bombards our minds with extra stimuli, makes it more difficult to relax, and creates feelings of guilt. So, we help both our working selves and our after-hours selves by tidying up.
SAY THANK YOU
Writing down gratitudes is a certified, well-researched way to keep a positive, healthy outlook on your day and change your mood in an instant. This could be jotting down a list of three things for which you’re thankful. Or it could be writing a quick hand-written note to a friend who you haven’t seen in a while. Hand-writing a note is a great mood booster, but it also transports the mind, works the memory, and connects us with loved ones who we can’t see right now. Writing down or saying aloud something for which you are grateful is free, doesn’t take much time, and is super powerful!
THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT: There is a very strong and growing body of research on the benefits of expressing gratitude. Studies have found that giving thanks and counting blessings can help people sleep better, lower stress, and improve interpersonal relationships. (source)
TRY NOT TO …
- check your email or other work-related things while taking a break.
- stay in the same place. Change your scenery! Sit outside or in a different room than you’ve been in for the last few hours.
- mindlessly scroll through Instagram. As Teddy Roosevelt so famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
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