No matter what kind of work you do, extended focus on one task can put you into a hypnotic trance that can actually detract from your productivity. It’s a particular problem for anyone who spends their day staring at a computer screen. Therefore, it’s important to pause for a few moments on a regular basis. Here’s how to use technology to make the most of those short breaks.
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What Is a Microbreak?
A microbreak is a short break that can help you refocus and reset your mind. When you return to work, it’s with fresh eyes and purpose. Research published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology (JEP) shows how effective microbreaks are in restoring attention, particularly when they involve views of nature. Microbreaks are also great for reducing stress levels and even avoiding injuries arising from physical inactivity.
However, it’s not just important to take short breaks. You need to use them effectively to gain benefits. Here are some of the best ways to use your microbreak for maximum well-being.
1. Take a Short Nap
Although it may sound counterintuitive, a short power nap of around 20 minutes can give you as much energy as two cups of coffee. According to research published in Sleep Medicine, napping has numerous health benefits, including emotional and cognitive functioning.
So, there’s a powerful argument for using one of your mid-afternoon microbreaks to grab a little shuteye. You can use your smartphone to set reminders, play sleep sounds, and even take a mindful moment when you wake up again. Read our guide on using your smartphone to make power napping easier for more on this tip.
2. Hydrate Using the Waterllama App
The health benefits of drinking sufficient water are extensive. So, there’s no better way to spend your microbreak than making sure you have that glass of water or cup of tea, leaving you well hydrated and alert for your next activities.
However, when you have a busy schedule, your breaks are so valuable that it can be difficult to drink enough to reach your recommended two liters daily. A hydration tracking app such as Waterllama will make the task much easier.
Waterllama offers reminders and fun challenges that will charm you into maintaining healthy habits. Alternatively, you could use a smart water bottle to track fluid intake.
Download: Water Tracker Waterllama for iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)
3. Practice Yoga Stretches Using the Asana Rebel App
If you work at an office desk, you’ll no doubt already know that adjusting your physical position from time to time is essential if you don’t want to get those aches and pains arising from inactivity.
While standing up and stretching are both good, why not use your microbreak more productively by practicing a few yoga stretches? Yoga is great for both the mind and body, and there are several great yoga apps that will help you work out anywhere.
With over 10 million users, the yoga-based wellness app Asana Rebel is a hugely popular choice. If you have it to hand on your smartphone, it can lead you through some quick and simple exercises to restore you and help with your strength and flexibility.
When you have time, explore Asana Rebel’s other features for alternative microbreak activities. For example, you could look at the nutrition section and plan healthy recipes for your evening meal or follow one of the activity recommendations in your personalized wellness plan.
4. Go Outside Into Nature Using NatureDose
The same JEP study shows that even “views of nature can boost attention and mood over minutes to hours.” But don't just look out of a window to get the full benefit during your microbreak. Take the time to step outside, breathe fresh air, and get some of that important Vitamin D exposure.
The change of environment will help to reduce stress and lift your mood, and you can double up the benefits by going for a short walk and getting some exercise or even practicing a short walking meditation.
There are some useful apps to assist you in spending time outside in nature. NatureDose tracks how much time you spend outdoors and shows you the benefits of doing so. You can even opt to participate in a scientific study to help track the benefits of the practice.
5. Meditate Using the Simple Habit App
One of the best ways to escape from a stressful day during your microbreak is to restore your mind with a short meditation. Many meditation apps help you pause for a mindful moment.
One of these is the meditation app Simple Habit, a brilliant choice for busy days because of its On-The-Go feature. All you need to do is enter how long you have to spare and what you’re doing with your day, and it will serve up a series of meditations to suit you. Put on headphones, and your microbreak can become a short, peaceful retreat.
6. Practice Breathing Exercises Using Breathwrk
If you don’t have the time to practice meditation, you can gain similar stress-relieving benefits from doing simple breathing exercises. This is a great use of a microbreak, with the added benefit that it combines with many other suggestions on this list. It’s easy to learn some good techniques with the help of apps with breathing exercises.
Try downloading Breathwrk, an award-winning app that offers one-minute “clear your mind” breathing routines as part of a comprehensive suite of features. The app also includes longer challenges that you can return to each day, thus building your skills and building positive habits.
7. Learn Something New Using the Blinkist App
A brilliant way to distract a stressed brain is by thinking of something completely different. While you might spend your work breaks scrolling social media, you could use that time on your smartphone to learn new skills and knowledge using apps. These will stimulate and train your brain in ways that Facebook probably won’t.
Among the many options available is Blinkist, an ingenious app that distills the key takeaways from thousands of books into short sessions called blinks. During your microbreak, you could use Blinkist to explore big ideas in topics such as psychology, productivity, and communication skills.
Imagine using a microbreak to devour Atomic Habits or Sapiens! If you’re one of those people who don’t get around to reading enough books, this could be a perfect way to spend your microbreak.
8. Listen to Uplifting Music
Of course, your microbreak should be spent on anything that revives and restores you. Music can be a great source of joy, inspiration, and relaxation for many. So, one of the best ways to enjoy your microbreak is to make a music playlist that energizes and stimulates you.
Fortunately, major music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music make it easy to construct a playlist with just a few clicks. And you’d be surprised at the huge amount of well-being resources available on Apple Music if you subscribe to that service.
Make the Most of Microbreaks to Maximize Your Well-Being
Microbreaks are essential to functioning successfully throughout the day, and the good news is that there are so many positive ways you can use your short breaks to maximize your well-being. With the tools and tips here, whatever you do to relax and revive your mind during your precious microbreak will serve you well when you return to work recharged and refocused for your next challenge.