University of Tennessee at Chattanooga organizational psychologist Chris Cunningham says that where, how, and who you eat with is as important as what you eat.

"Taking a lunch break away from the desk lets people separate themselves from the source of that (energy) drain," Cunningham says. "And that offers the opportunity to build back some of those resources in the middle of the day--rather than just at the end when work is over."

For the record, the insanely prolific (and possibly just insane) philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would take a two-hour walk before lunch every day, writing ideas in his notebook when they came. So we can at least go for a walk down the hall.

A walk through the park will unstuck your flow of ideas and make you feel way better. Japanese doctors are now prescribing walks through the woods to help with mental health. And they have an awesome word for it: shinrin-yoku, or "forest bathing."

At-work BFFs make you more productive. Having lunch together will make you guys "BFF-er."

This is not the lunch you are looking for. (Jedi mind trick, anyone?)

Neither is this.

Nope.

Don't make us talk about obesity rates now, okay?

And some companies even have lunch-time dance parties.

So get up from that desk and say, "I'm hungry as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Hate Happiness? Then Keep Eating Lunch At Your Desk

By not taking lunch away from the office, you can ruin your productivity, your day, and your health. Now, where are we going to eat?

When we talk about productivity, we're really talking about working with our workday in a such a way that we can continually be awesome. There are many roads to the awesome workday: the boulevard of the insanely early morning, the alley of the ultra-productive night, the rest stop of the 3 p.m. nap.

But one thoroughfare to the awesome workday is getting thoroughly overlooked: lunch.

Two-thirds of us eat lunch at our desks--and it's getting a little sad. This wouldn't be a problem if we didn't spend our energy all morning; unfortunately, we do. And the less energy we have, the worse decisions we make, the less productive we become, and the more annoying we are to be around.

So if we want to do better work throughout the day, we need to unplug at some point during the day. Like midway through. With a midday meal. But take note: as University of Tennessee at Chattanooga organizational psychologist Chris Cunningham tells the Wall Street Journal, where, how, and who you eat with is as important as what you eat.

Step away from the keyboard.

"Taking a lunch break away from the desk lets people separate themselves from the source of that (energy) drain," Cunningham says. "And that offers the opportunity to build back some of those resources in the middle of the day--rather than just at the end when work is over."

Resource replenishment is specific to the person, he says. You might need 10 minutes to recharge, your colleague might need an hour. The task for us, then, is to tinker with our lunches in the way we tinker with an idea: If we experiment with the way we lunch, we can arrive at the meal that best feeds us.

The factors that are out to lunch

Lunch can energize us, Cunningham says, but only, again, if we step away from the screen. Like by going for a walk--at least down the hall. For the record, the insanely prolific (and possibly just insane) philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would take a two-hour walk before lunch every day, writing ideas in his notebook when they came. So we can at least go for a walk down the hall.

And as we've learned elsewhere, switching focus reenergizes us. Cunningham says to do something uplifting, rather than click through online shopping, stumble through your email, or run to the bank.

So how else can we make lunch an energy asset? First, by appreciating the majesty of the midday meal, as this eagle does.

Then by doing these things.

Hanging out in nature: A walk through the park will unstuck your flow of ideas and make you feel way better. Japanese doctors are now prescribing walks through the woods to help with mental health. And they have an awesome word for it: shinrin-yoku, or "forest bathing."

Hanging out with a friend: At-work BFFs make you more productive. Having lunch together will make you guys "BFF-er."

Hanging out with your food: "It's certainly not advised to have a Thanksgiving feast for lunch," Cunningham tells the Journal. "Then again, you should give yourself a chance to be fascinated with the world around you—and enjoying your food can do that."

How do you lunch more excellently? Tell us in the comments please.

Hat tip: The Wall Street Journal

[Image: Flickr user Martijn van Exel]

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18 Comments

  • I reading this while eating at my desk. Kidding. Although that statement could be true on most days; this summer I've started taking lunch outside on a quiet spot on campus (I work at a college) and read. One of my goals for 2014 is to read more--at least three books per month--and spending quiet time alone on lunch gives me the break from the screen I need, as well as helps me catch up on a personal goal. At least once a week, though, I eat with work pals and just laugh. It DOES make a difference. Thanks for this post.

  • joshuagraham

    I'm guilty of eating lunch at my desk. It's a habit from my corporate America days. But now that I'm a full time writer, it's more important than ever to keep the creative juices flowing. I find that stepping outside even for a few minutes of sunshine, and listening to the sounds of nature refreshes me greatly and helps reset my working brain, somewhat.

    http://Joshua-Graham.com.

  • UWWM Mediation

    I finally work in a place that has awesome lunch places all around it -- so I walk to lunch and back. I get a bit of exercise, some great food and a little Vitamin D, all in one hour.

  • dewittjoy

    Teachers have a window of 30 minutes to eat, unless they are lucky enough to have their conference period back up to their lunch period. Lunch is something that is greatly anticipated, yet often a challenge to accomplish without stress. First, it depends on what grade is taught. Elementary school teachers frequently have to eat with their classes... which isn't all that relaxing, as they have to continue overseeing their little charges, and keep them from throwing food or saying mean things to someone at the table. MIddle school and high school teachers normally don't have to eat with their kids, but some choose to do so once a week or so.... just to keep communication lines open. It can be a lot of fun to eat with your students at that age. Secondly, proximity to the cafeteria and teacher's lounge is important. When I had a classroom near these areas, it cut the time to get there and thus gave me an extra few minutes. When I've had classrooms far away from the lunchroom, it was a scramble to get there. I'd have to figure in the time it takes to go to the bathroom, get my food, and get seated. There goes about about ten minutes... or more, depending on the cafeteria line. So I could be left with anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to eat. Then I'd have to hurry back to class. In middle school, I'd have to exit wherever I was eating a couple of minutes before the bell, because I'd have to meet my class and escort them to the room. When I had an opportunity to eat in the teacher's lounge, this was a nice, although quick break. At my last school, I chose to just bring my lunch and eat with my co workers on that hall, as we were pretty far from the cafeteria and lounge. That was actually a great way to gain more time; we had a bathroom right on our hall, we had our lunches right there, we just met in one of our classrooms and had some good chats. On days that we had an inservice and got to leave campus to go out to lunch, it was always fun and so helpful to disengage from the school building. My last principal actually banned teachers from leaving campus during inservices as she did not appreciate some teachers coming back late to campus. That was the biggest morale buster. She was a control freak and couldn't stand coming in at 1:15, when we were supposed to be there at 1:00, even if the restaurant was crowded and slow. Needless to say, there were cheers when she left... and lunch on off days was fun again.

  • Gil Pagan-Lease A Sales Rep

    I agree that maybe 1x per week to go out for lunch is ok. I typically bring my food to the office and eat at my desk. Its just more productive for me. I do got out daily for a coffee that takes about 15 minutes and breaks my routine. American's are wired differently and we are the most productive nation per man hour. I would not want it any other way. I'm happy this way. Work smart, play hard.
    Gil Pagan
    Lease A Sales Rep
    www.LeaseASalesRep.com
    919-827-0019

  • ronromano

    Eating out at lunch costs money. And once you do the routine with the typical questions.. Where are we going to go eat. Got to hit the ATM etc. etc. your left with 20 minutes before you have to head back or be late. Easier and cheaper and definitely more peaceful to let everyone else leave the office and get a whole hour to yourself.

  • SusanG

    Most days, I work at home and am on the phone for at least five hours. My lunch time is a bowl of vegetables, a couple ounces of string cheese, and a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood with my dog. I do not think about work. By the time I get back to my desk, my brain is reset.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Bugs -- love your early work at WB. Great point on Europeans vs. Americans. A few years ago we had a factory rep in town from Italy, and we picked him up and gave him a ride up the 405 to the office. For one day he was part of our morning routine, which included a quick drive-through for coffee, and then the tricky sipping/gulping while driving. He remarked as kindly as he could that he could hardly call this drinking coffee: sneaking gulps through the tiny sipper-hole, timed to avoid turns and pot-holes. I had to agree. To this day I catch myself eating and drinking on the run (at my desk, while driving, etc.) and ask, am I even tasting this food/drink? And for that matter, coffee is about taste AND smell -- so why drink it out of a straw/sippy cup and deprive yourself of half the experience?

  • Career Sidekick

    I've been preaching this for years. Natural breaks are healthy and actually INCREASE productivity. Reading emails through lunch is only going to lead to a less productive afternoon. Take a break, stop multitasking constantly, and watch your productivity rise!

  • Jona Genova

    I (and the latest brain research) couldn't agree more. We need to reset and during those breaks often come solutions we would not have realized had we pushed through. The people who tell me they don't have time for meditation or balk at the idea of stepping away for ten minutes are the ones I know need it most.

  • BugsBunny

    Unfortunately there is a difference between Europeans and Americans and how they view food. Americans believe food is a necessity to get energy too do other things. So eating a burger in a mini-van on the way to a sports practice is fine. All family members eating at different times is also fine. Europeans believe means (the food and the company) are a source of enjoyment. Longer is better but it does not have to be. How is it possible for the French, Italians, Greeks and Spanish to eat so much for so long and still be thin? Meanwhile Americans are now the most overweight and obese people in the history of the world. Think about that. Not just in the world, but ever. At what point does this become an emergency?

  • veronika

    Love your response. You are so right. Here in North America we live to work. In Europe they work to live.

  • justinTimeAgain

    "Europeans believe means (the food and the company) are a source of enjoyment. Longer is better but it does not have to be. How is it possible for the French, Italians, Greeks and Spanish to eat so much for so long and still be thin?" *mind blown* what? Back that up with something other than speculation. http://www.livestrong.com/arti...

  • wally

    Im a seasoned chick and love to eat out doors when the weather is nice. When the weather gets cold I dread it because my co-workers are always foul mouthed, annoying and sickening to the point we're I get ajada DURING my meal!! I'm a Jersey- girl but want to move to Fla !!!!