Are Your Lunch Habits Hurting Your Health?

These days, more of us are eating lunch at our desks – or skipping lunch altogether. And that’s bad for our health. Here’s why – and how to make your lunch hour count – courtesy of occupational health expert Dr. Chris Cunningham:

We need to take periodic breaks from the stresses of work. That gives our brain and body time to relax, de-stress and to restore our energy reserves. That helps us feel refreshed and refocused for the rest of the workday. Dr. Cunningham says it takes anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to feel refreshed. But if you skip your midday-break, it’ll take twice that long to unwind at the end of the day.

Our brains like new experiences. Sitting in the same spot all day bores our brain, which lowers mood and productivity, and hurts our physical health. So, try a change of scene – even if you just walk to the cafeteria, or sit outside under a tree to eat your sandwich. Studies show that ditching personal electronics and being “in the moment” can be a huge relief. And it will help keep your brain from overreacting to stress in the afternoon.

Desk dining can make you antisocial. Studies show that people with larger social circles tend to live longer, healthier lives. But you can’t make friends at work if you always eat at your desk. So, take a moment to chat in the break room, or join your coworkers for lunch. And take a real break by talking about anything but work.

Enjoy your food. Slowing down enough to use all your senses can be relaxing all by itself. In a recent study, ER doctors found everything about their job stressful and draining – except lunch. They said a lunch break was tremendously valuable because it was a total change of pace, and helped them feel renewed and relaxed when it was time to clock back in.