Illustration: Naomi Elliott


How a walking (not working) lunch can transform your day

From an aimless wander that boosts creativity to a walk-and-talk catch-up with people you haven’t seen for a while, Alice Tate calls on different types of lunchtime strolls to get her through the working day

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By Alice Tate on

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It’s all too easy to overlook the idea of self-care and mindfulness, and continue through life at 100mph. But, in that, you’re doing yourself an injustice. There’s a lot of worth in stopping for 10 minutes, to take a minute to go offline and reflect, and to zone out for just a little while. A 2015 study published by The New York Times, led by Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani, professor of exercise at Curtin University, highlighted that there was "strong research evidence” to feeling more positive, enthusiastic and productive after a lunchtime stroll. And who am I to argue with academic research?

If I’ve got a meeting in the afternoon, I find I need to get out of the door and work off as much restless energy as possible beforehand or I find I’ll have zero focus. Likewise, if I’ve got a brainstorm in my diary, I like just to aimlessly wander around Farringdon, gazing at shop windows, busy people around me, the outfits they wear – pulling subconscious inspiration from colours, smells and scenes.

There are times — plenty of them — when I’m stressed or a little overwhelmed, when I just need to get out before I snap or, more likely being me, burst into tears. Taking myself outside works. It’s calming to just witness other people going about their day; sometimes, just watching them laugh with a colleague can lighten my mood.

I think there’s an air of confidence about rising from your desk at 1pm. It suggests that you’re on top of your workload, you’re in control of your time management and you know what’s best for your own productivity

Other times, my walk is just for a change of scenery. On these, I like to have something to do, so I’ll call my mum — to brain-dump, relay a conversation with the bank, hear about her weekend, or just a quick two minutes to say, “Hi, how’s your day going?”

I’ve got a couple of friends who work in highly strung PR agencies, who laugh at the idea of getting out at lunch (“Mmm, yeah, we don’t get lunch breaks”). But I can’t help but wonder if they’re just reluctant to take them because of the office culture, and because they feel too shy or intimidated to actually get up and leave the room.

I think there’s an air of confidence about rising from your desk at 1pm. It’s important. It suggests that you’re on top of your workload (even if in reality you aren’t!), you’re in control of your time management and you know what’s best for your own productivity. You’re a girl boss. One who powers through their morning, embraces a little you-time, then powers through the afternoon.

And there are times when my walk isn’t for me, but for someone else. It’s for a pal who needs a supportive phonecall to get her through a bad day; it’s for my sister who’s going to pull her hair out if I don’t offer my immediate feedback on her wedding invites’ typeface. Other times, I’ll call my partner with the hope of chatting and I’ll spend 15 minutes just listening and making sympathetic noises while he moans about his day, the traffic, parking wardens, the weather… But that’s fine – it is – because I know, when I need to moan, he’ll be there, listening, while I talk and walk.

Sometimes, if I’ve got a long afternoon ahead, I’ll finish my walk with a little self-led cheerleading session. I’ll crick my neck, shake out my fingers – I’ve *got* this.


Illustration: Naomi Elliott
Tagged in:
Work Smarter
Breathing Space

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