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The 5 Things You Must Do Before Eating Lunch at Your Desk

Ah, the Sad Desk Lunch... so unfortunately prevalent, it’s achieved meme status (2,881 #saddesklunch Instagram posts and counting). Yet so many of us — four out of five American workers, in fact—forego a daily lunch break in favor of scarfing a salad or sandwich in front of our computers. Whether due to our actual workloads or simply an office-culture-fueled pressure to be constantly working, taking a break so often seems verboten. But while our industrious intentions may be valiant, we’re not doing our bodies or minds much good. Numerous studies point to the detrimental effects of ceaseless workdays spent sitting at a desk, from creativity ruts to weight gain.

But we understand those busy, hectic, nonstop days—we know them all too well, in fact. And so we’re here to help you find the silver lining in this daily tribulation of the 9-to-5 life. If you simply must eat lunch at your desk, do yourself a favor and take this midday moment as an opportunity to check in with your body and mind. Think of it as a wise investment: a few minutes of tuning out the work noise and taking a few minutes for yourself will ultimately pay off in productivity and improved mood (so you’ll get more done, do better-quality work and be less likely to snap at your coworker/significant other/innocent bystander on your evening commute).

Before you reach for the nearest delivery menu, dig into last night’s leftovers (or, best of all, dive into your clean, green, gorgeous Sakara lunch), STOP and do these five things: 

  1. Stretch your body: You’ve likely been hunched over your computer keyboard like some kind of corporate contortionist for hours. Your muscles are dying for relief! Stretching them out will prevent stiffness and pain and improve your posture. Roll your shoulders forward and back, stretch your arms across your chest and over your head and gently roll your head from one side to the other. For an extra-restorative rush (plus a great back and leg stretch), stand up, bend at the waist and hang your head and arms. Get that blood flowing to your brain!
  2. Rest your eyes: That burning feeling in your eyeballs? That’s eye strain from staring at the bright light of your computer screen all day long. Give your eyes a break! If you really want to protect your peepers, try the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a break and focus your eyes on objects 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  3. Hydrate: The benefits of drinking lots of water are legion — we’re talking smoother, brighter skin, a better-functioning digestive system, a flatter belly, a clearer mind and fewer snack cravings, to name a few. Grab your glass or bottle, take a stroll to the watercooler (gossip optional) and fill ‘er up. Drink before you eat and you’ll be less likely to overindulge.
  4. Move a muscle: We’re not suggesting you do anything crazy like leave the premises. Just take a quick walk—any distance will do! Forego email or Gchat for once and walk over to a coworker’s desk to say hi. Do a lap around the floor. Even a little bit of physical movement has been found to boost creativity and offer a mood-lifting endorphin spike. It’ll also restore your brain power so you’re more productive the rest of the day. Bonus points if you walk to a window and soak up a little sunshine. (Just don’t get waylaid by the vending machine.)
  5. Say a mantra: Take this daily moment as a cue to give yourself a much-needed pep talk. It will help you maintain a perpetual state of gratitude and positivity—essential to cultivating awareness, finding peace and approaching challenges with serenity and focus. It’s amazing what such a seemingly small thing can do for your entire state of being. Start with something simple, like “I love and accept myself as I am right now.” Repeat it to yourself (in your head or out loud) a few times. Eventually, you’ll start to believe it. We promise.

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