5 Reasons To Take A Break While You're Working, According To Science
It's hard to convince a workaholic to take a break while they're working — unless, perhaps, you can convince them it's good for their work. And if you said that, you'd be right. There are many benefits to taking breaks through the day and throughout the year, both for your work and for your well-being. By forcing yourself to work hours and hours uninterrupted, you can end up less productive in the long-run due to burnout.
"Taking Breaks equates to more productivity and, more importantly, more efficient productivity," performance coach Casey Moran tells Bustle. "Studies show that the brain works best 52 minutes on followed by 17 minutes off (break). So, what I advise clients to do is work for 45 minutes to an hour and take 12-15 minute breaks. Everyone is different, and so finding out what works best for you is the most important. The brain, like everything else, gets tired. So, focusing for eight hours straight is not realistic and not healthy. The more you 'push' yourself, the more stress (cortisol) gets released, which lowers your immune system."
Still not convinced? Here are some scientifically-proven benefits to stepping away from your computer and giving yourself some rest and relaxation.
1. Your Body Needs To Move
If you're sitting at a desk all day, getting up to walk around once in a while can spare you the back pain that often comes from leaning over your computer, along with other health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
This has been scientifically proven time and time again. One study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that walking around for just five minutes per hour improved people's mood and energy. Another study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that the cells of sedentary people were more prone to aging. Get up every 20 minutes or so, and your body will thank you.
2. Breaks Help You Focus In The Long-Term
It might seem like you're decreasing the amount of work you get done if you take time away from your work. But actually, taking a break during the day will help you work faster, which will increase the amount of work you do in the long-term.
One study in Cognition found that people performed better on a task that required focus if it was briefly interrupted twice by a different task. "Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness," its lead author Alejandro Lleras said in a press release. "From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself."
3. Breaks Make Decision-Making Easier
If you make a bunch of decisions non-stop, you begin to suffer from what psychologists call "decision fatigue." Choices start to seem overwhelming, so you just go with the easiest one, whether or not it's the best. One study in PNAS found that judges were more likely to grant prisoners parole after their breaks, potentially because the easiest option is just to deny it to them. Granting it actually required thought, and our capacity to think is lower after a long day of work.
4. Your Brain Gets A Lot Done When You're Not Thinking
When you let your mind wander, it's actually doing more than you realize. The brain's "default mode," which it slips into while you're resting, is "important for active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing, for example, when recalling personal memories, imagining the future, and feeling social emotions with moral connotations," according to an analysis in Perspectives on Psychological Science.
5. It Can Spark Creativity
If you're stumped for ideas, a break just may be the way to get your creative juices flowing again. A study in the Creativity Research Journal found that people came up with the most ideas in an exercise that involved brainstorming uses for objects if they took a break to work on an unrelated task.
The authors theorize that if you keep working on the same thing for too long, you can get too close to the problem to brainstorm new solutions. Paying attention to something else for a bit lets you return to the original task with fresh eyes.
So, don't feel guilty about stepping away from your desk. If anything, you're only doing your work — and your health — a favor.