One key to being able to maintain a state of open poise while we work at our computer is our willingness to take constructive breaks. Multiple studies emphasize the importance of removing ourselves from our work to boost our creativity and problem-solving abilities, as well as the downside of sitting for too long (“sitting is the new smoking”) on our overall well-being.
The following are my top three recommendations for how to take constructive breaks, in ways that will both help boost your productivity and creativity, AND reinforce healthy postural habits.
#1 Take Up Space
Sometimes you need a break, but you may not be able to leave your desk or office, and have only a minute or two at most to re-group before continuing with your work.
Find ways to move expansively at your desk. Raise your hands in the air, stretch your legs out, and be aware of your breath. Or shift your weight from one sit bone to the other, as if you’re walking, or even dancing, on them as you sit on your chair! Practice some constructive thinking as you do so.
If you can, stand up and do an upright power pose. Do the “wonder woman” or the “V for victory” – or combine the two of them. Again, take time to practice your awareness and thinking as you do so.
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Allowing your body to be expansive, inside and out, has been shown to lower stress and boost confidence. While we are aiming for an expansive and open sitting posture while we work, taking a minute or two to literally expand in space is not only helpful in itself, it is also a useful reminder to ourselves as we inevitably start to contract in on ourselves despite our good intentions after a while of focused work.
#2 Get Up and Move!
We are made for movement!
This is a key principle of the BodyIntelligence approach. Indeed, there is always movement even in stillness (think breath and balance). Here, however, I’m recommending that you actually get up and move your body away from your computer.
Again, as we start to contract and sink into our work, we become more static. It’s time to get up and move if you can!
Obviously it’s great when we can incorporate a break for exercise into our day, whether that’s a walk or a run, a yoga or other fitness class, or perhaps a game of tennis. Do whatever you enjoy!
But also find way to incorporate more movement throughout your day. Find reasons to get up from your desk and walk around. One benefit of standing to work if you’re more like to walk around as you think through problems than stay stuck in one position.
I also believe strongly in the benefits of getting outside if possible too. There’s nothing like expanding our horizons literally as we get rid of the confines of walls of our room, and have the sky above, to help us open up and breathe more fully. When I interviewed Megan Macedo she described how she often works in cafés, and will have something of a “café crawl,” incorporating walks between visits to different coffee shops! I think that’s a brilliant idea if you work in a city where this is possible.
#3 Constructive Rest
This is one of my favorite self-care practices, and is a fabulous way to give yourself a break from the computer. Constructive Rest is an incredibly simple, yet powerful way to energize and restore your body and mind. It helps you to improve your posture, release tension and calm your nervous system so you can be your most efficient, energetic and productive self. All you need are a few minutes of time, a couple of books, and a quiet place to lie down.
Here are the basics:
- First find a quiet, warm, carpeted floor space where you can lie down undisturbed.
- Place a small pile of books under your head for support – this should be high enough to stop your head pulling back, but not so high that your chin is pushed toward your chest, constricting your throat.
- Bend your knees so they point up toward the ceiling, with your feet flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart.
- Let your hands rest on your abdomen, fingers released and elbows out to the side, allowing width in your upper body.
- Aim to be almost completely passive physically.
- During your lie down be aware of the ground supporting your back, allowing your shoulders to rest as your back widens and your whole body lengthens and expands.
- As you move back into your daily activities, be aware of your body’s regained ease and expansion.
I offer lots of tools and guidance to help you cultivate this simple practice on my website. In particular I recommend my Constructive Rest Audio Guide, both for beginners and those already familiar with the practice. In the audio I gently guide you to release excess tension, using my latest ideas on how to direct your thinking and awareness most effectively. The companion guide contains all you need to get you started, as well as additional tips and suggestions for alternative positions.
If you make Constructive Rest a daily practice the benefits are cumulative. Find a way to incorporate it into your day that suits your schedule and preferences. I had one client who worked on the computer all day at home who found it very beneficial to incorporate multiple VERY short Constructive Rest breaks into her day.
If the thought of lying down doing nothing seems challenging, start off with just a couple of minutes even. As well as the benefits of Constructive Rest itself, you are also cultivating your tolerance of doing nothing.
“So while we believe that success stems from staying focused and being productive nonstop without a minute wasted, the truth is that success depends in large part on unfocusing, relaxing rather than working, and finding time to do nothing—opening up the space in our lives that our brains need for creative process.”
Emma Seppälä The Happiness Track
There are many other ways of taking a break that are helpful for our success and well-being. These three, however, are my favorites as they also positively and directly impact your posture.
In our culture, it is hard to remember that taking a break is important. “It is our collective delusion that overwork and burnout are the price we must pay to achieve success,” writes Arianna Huffington in The Sleep Revolution.
Indeed, getting enough sleep is crucial, but taking constructive breaks during our work day is very important too, and greatly impacts our productivity (both the quality and the quantity), our confidence, our creativity and our overall comfort and well-being.
What are your favorite ways to take a constructive break (I’m not talking about watching your favorite show on Netflix, though even that is sometimes good for the soul!)? Do you find it challenging to take a break? And let me know if you try out my suggestions. As always, I’d love to hear from you.
Top Image © bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo
Check out all the posts in this series so far: