How Workday Breaks Improve Mental Performance

How Taking breaks improves mental performance

Work can take a toll on psychological wellness, but incorporating workday breaks benefits mental performance. Breaks during the workday help increase productivity and boost overall well-being. Below, we’ll explore this link between workday breaks and mental performance enhancement.

The Benefits of Workday Breaks: What They Are and the Benefits

No one can work well for an extended period without any rest. Physically and mentally disengaging from work serves many purposes. Among the most dramatic is better mental performance.

Under federal law, lunch or coffee breaks are not required. Yet, when employers allow workers short breaks, that time is considered compensable. Short breaks are typically 5-20 minutes long. Mealtime, however, isn’t considered work time and is not compensated. These are periods lasting 30 minutes or longer.

Understanding the Cognitive and Psychological Benefits of Taking Regular Breaks

What happens cognitively and psychologically after taking a break during the workday? After intense concentration and focus on work, taking time away from the task helps the brain disengage. This time allows the brain to rest.

Mental Performance Enhancement

Taking a break and doing a little light to moderate exercise is a psychological boon. Exercising releases dopamine and serotonin in the brain, whether you’re stretching, walking outdoors, or at the gym. The neurotransmitters boost mood and can help improve memory.

Returning after a short break generally enhances productivity and effectiveness since you return with a refreshed mind.

Cognitive Function Improvement

One study found that brief breaks during the workday enhance mental performance. Researchers say that taking brief breaks helps individuals stay focused on their tasks. They say the breaks are ways to deactivate and reactivate goals, promoting increased focus.

This is especially important for those working on tasks for prolonged periods. Repeating tasks for extended periods leads to cognitive boredom, which stunts successful work on the task. So, to refresh your attention and focus, take a quick break.

Workday Breaks and Work-Life Balance

In today’s complex society, balancing work and life is essential to optimizing physical and mental health and well-being. Workday breaks help individuals establish an appropriate balance between their personal and professional duties and responsibilities. Breaks also help to reduce  work stress levels.

Effective Strategies for Incorporating Workday Breaks

If mental performance enhancement is essential, the logical next step is to explore effective strategies for incorporating workday breaks into daily routines. Remember, the most straightforward strategies are those you’re more likely to adopt and stick to. The key is consistency. For a healthy habit (such as taking workday breaks) to stick, it’s necessary to make them part of your daily routine.

Tips for Productivity-Boosting Pauses

Once you recognize that productivity-boosting pauses are crucial to maintaining good mental and cognitive well-being, how do you apply them to everyday routines?

Schedule Breaks

Schedules are important to ensure tasks get completed. Yet, scheduling workday breaks benefits more than work productivity. According to some studies, breaking once per hour for about 15 minutes is most effective. While following a specific break plan isn’t necessary, the key is to create a plan that works for you. When you have a workable plan for taking regular breaks, you are more likely to follow through.

Include Light to Moderate Exercise

You want to get the most out of your workday breaks. For this reason, incorporate exercise to help cognitive function improvement and mental performance enhancement. Physical activity improves blood flow to the brain. Exercise also lowers stress hormone levels, reduces inflammation, and benefits cardiovascular health.

If you move more, your memory and thinking improves. Some research suggests that exercise can even increase the thickness and integrity of specific brain areas. Exercise promotes brain plasticity—or the formation of new neural connections, which help maintain lifelong learning ability.

Any exercise that increases your heart rate is excellent for brain health. Run, jog, cycle, and do aerobics or steps (7,500 to 10,000 steps or more daily) for noticeable results in cognitive improvements.

Make Sure to Be Social

While you take your workday productivity-boosting pauses, make sure to socialize and laugh with others. Interacting with colleagues and friends boosts mood and reduces anxiety and stress. If no one’s available, use the break time to connect with those who matter through a quick call or text. The psychological life this provides refreshes your brain and makes you ready to get back to the task you paused.

Catch Up on News or Watch Videos

Boost your productivity after a work break, where you watch entertaining videos or get up-to-date on the news. This is an effortless way to realize cognitive function improvement.

Eat a Light Snack

Mental performance enhancement also gets a life when you eat a light snack at break time. Pack some fruit, nuts, or other healthy food that’s easy to consume, and you’re all set to do something that nourishes and provides brain fuel to improve your productivity.

Do What You Enjoy

The purpose of breaks is to pause the non-stop attention to work briefly. It’s an intentional pause that allows your brain a brief respite and provides the opportunity to divert attention to something else. For the best results, do something you enjoy during this break. When you have a good time, you’ll be better able to return to work with a sharper mindset and the necessary cognitive function improvement.

Add a Meditation Break

Another way to get in a workday break is to use the time to meditate. While meditating, you allow your mind to wander freely. If distressing thoughts, worries, or concerns intrude, acknowledge them. Then, permit them to pass. The practice of meditating reduces stress while simultaneously improving cognitive reserve. Meditation and mindfulness are examples of productivity-boosting pauses that provide dramatic results.

Completely Disconnect

Many people take their brief time off work to answer emails, respond to texts, or scroll endlessly on their phones. This isn’t a break. Your mind is still reeling from the effects of the screens you’re viewing, which wears out your eyes and contributes to lethargy and fatigue. On the other hand, to realize workday breaks benefits, disconnect entirely from all digital communications and devices within arm’s reach all day.

Research and Case Studies on Benefits of Workday Breaks

Few research and case studies support the positive effects of workday breaks on productivity and well-being. Yet, some highlights show how the addition of workday breaks benefits everyone’s overall mental health.

One study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that walking in the park at lunchtime can improve afternoon work concentration and lessen levels of fatigue and strain. Researchers noted that employees engaging in lunchtime park walks enjoyed higher well-being at the day’s end.

Choice of Workday Breaks Benefits Everyone Differently

While increasing evidence points to the benefits of taking workday breaks, taking breaks that work best for you is also essential. After reviewing many studies, researchers say that the most effective breaks for mental performance enhancement and overall well-being depend on you, what you do, and your situation. Different types of breaks work differently for each person.

  • Choose break activities that are different from your work. To be stimulating, what you do during break time should not mirror what you’ll return to afterward. If you’re engrossed in mental calculations or problem-solving at work, do something physical during your break. If you’re engaged in manual labor on the job, during your break, enjoy something soothing, like reading or socializing.
  • Exercise and being outdoors are good break time choices for those working in jobs demanding mental effort. Being physically active reduces stress and clears the mind.
  • For many people, morning breaks work better to replenish energy and diminish afternoon fatigue, which fogs the mind and makes maintaining attention challenging.
  • Make the most of the brief break. Most importantly, take breaks during the workday. While you may be tempted to skip it, your break is vital to your mental performance enhancement.
  • Consider whether cramming in extra hours in your workday is worth the price of your physical, cognitive, and emotional health. Likely, it isn’t.
  • Besides, these workday breaks benefits are free, readily available, and easy to do. In short, there’s every reason to take a break, but few, if any, good reasons to allow that precious time to go to waste.