I Tried Taking An Intentional Lunch Break For a Week—Here’s What I Learned

It surprised even me.

By Brittany Chatburn
lunch break ideas for midday

My pitch went a little something like this: “Hear me out. What if I took a lunch break—and then wrote about my experience?!” Groundbreaking, I know. But from the choruses of “I need to do that, too” from our editorial team, I knew it was a worthy subject. And I was curious… what is keeping us from indulging in an intentional midday break? For a culture that’s so intent on self-care, mindful eating, and generally protecting the vibe, why is it so hard to take a true lunch break? I set off on my quest, armed with a list of lunch break ideas and the very best of intentions.

Image by Michelle Nash

The Challenges of Taking a Lunch Break

My hypothesis was this: If I stop working through lunch, my afternoon will actually become more productive because I’m giving my brain and body an opportunity to rest and recharge.

Next, I had to acknowledge my own individual challenges. There are many reasons why a person might skip (or work through) a lunch break. From busy days to impending deadlines, we’ve all been there. Personally, my brain does this thing where it tells me that I’ll actually complete my to-do list if I keep typing away while simultaneously smashing a salad into my mouth.

I also quite enjoy my work, so it often feels like a treat to continue working while I’m warming leftovers. (If that sentence makes you roll your eyes, I get it. I’ve been there.) But my biggest challenge is specific to that of a working mom. My kids are home from school/camp for the last two hours of my workday. And while my husband takes on the role of Point Parent, my goal is always to get the most focused work done before the kiddos get home—so those midday thirty minutes? They are precious to me. 

However, I believe in the power of intention and giving myself a little kindness in the middle of the day. 

So, I set the lunch break parameters: no phone, no laptop, no work. Instead, a time to focus on a meal that’s often overlooked. But… because I’m a classic Oldest Daughter Overachiever, it wasn’t enough to simply eat on a lunch break. I decided that tacking on a short walk or a few minutes of reading wouldn’t be too much to handle, right?

It took me a few days to commit but finally, I did it.

Sort of.

The Lunch Break Diaries

Day 1: A friend drops by to say hello. I walk away from my computer! We chat for about 10 minutes. I warm up leftovers and…walk back to my computer. I work to meet a deadline as I shove spoonfuls of turkey chili into my mouth. Wups. Must try harder tomorrow.

And so I did.

Just walkin’ with my Waterloo.

Day 2: I wrap up a meeting around noon and notice I’m feeling hungry. My 2-year-old is “skipping school” for a day with dad so we eat lunch together and talk about her favorite color (pink), and my favorite color (according to her, pink). I have 5 minutes left so I tell Siri to set a timer for a quick out and back walk before I sit down at my desk. Truly? I feel lighter and primed to tackle my afternoon to-dos. 

I’ll spare you every journal entry, but the next few days followed the same pattern of “slip-ups” (for lack of a better term) and meaningful lunch breaks. I found a new challenge in that my days never look the same and oftentimes in-person meetings or photoshoots mean my lunch break is taking the scenic route or walking from café to café.

In the end, I couldn’t definitively link a productive afternoon to an intentional midday pause. but I came to realize that my lunch break ideas were actually never about becoming a productivity machine—even if that was the original hypothesis. It’d be a nice by-product, sure, but the real intention was about acknowledging the deep sigh in the middle of the day. A realigning to myself by picking up a book just for pleasure. Or listening to a podcast for no other reason than to laugh. Or going on a walk because my body craves a moment to move freely. 

No surprise here, this “experiment” is a work in progress. If anything, I’ll continue this practice of actively listening to my body come around noon—and attempting to give it what it needs.

8 Lunch Break Ideas For a Midday Reset

Image by Michelle Nash

Here are a few lunch break ideas to get the most out of your thirty minutes… should you choose to take them.

  • Make lunch ahead of time. Skipping over prep day to day means more room for activities! I’m always thankful for leftovers that simply require a quick reheat. But prepping a few things for quick lunches during the week is a good call if you’re not cooking every night. 
  • Or… don’t. If you’re the type of person who feels your body unwind with the chop of a vegetable, why not take your lunch break to put some intentionality behind the prep? Enjoy the toss of the salad or the sear of a grilled sandwich. 
  • Do some breathwork. Drop your shoulders. Take a deep breath. And repeat. Breathwork aids in brain function, reduces stress levels, and helps level out your emotions. Here are three simple exercises to try.
  • Try a meditation app. Apps to reduce stress might sound counterintuitive, but they might just be one of the best ways to find reprieve on your phone.
  • Fit in some face yoga. I’m so intrigued by face yoga but haven’t nailed down where it fits into my routine. Why not over lunch?
  • Or some full-body yoga. A quick fifteen-minute (or less!) yoga routine could actually be transformative in the middle of the day. Never discount what a few deep stretches can do in just a short amount of time.
  • Go for a walk. My current movement of choice, there’s nothing like a walk to reset my brain and my body. It never fails to put me in a more creative, energized space—even if it’s just a ten-minute jaunt. Plus, Camille once shared this fascinating fact about how a quick walk after a meal can reduce glucose spikes and I’m obsessed with the idea.
  • Read something you truly enjoy. Often, if I’m reading on a work day, I feel the need to read a book that’s aligned with my career goals or will further my education in a specific area. But diving into a rich, transporting story in the middle of the day is a special kind of indulgence. The key is having the self-control to put the book down after a chapter (or two).

What else would you add? Do you regularly take a lunch break? Drop your ideas in the comments—and let us know how you make those thirty minutes count.