Most People Work to Live, Not Live to Work
Some people absolutely love their jobs, can´t wait for Monday mornings, and joke that they would work for free. The rest of us work to live, not live to work. But there is one thing we have in common, the desire to improve our mood during the workday.
Why? Because we spend a lot of time there. For many people, the workplace is home away from home. Some workaholics joke it is the other way around, with their office constituting home base, and their residence merely providing a place to sleep. One thing both groups have in common, however, is the opportunity to strategize how they spend their lunch break.
The Best Use of Your Lunch Break
Most people working a daytime shift want a pick-me-up during lunchtime, after what is often a long, busy morning on the job. The best way to revive and regroup, however, is not through a jittery double-espresso caffeine buzz, heavy burger and fries (food coma in the making), or a chocolate bar sugar rush. It's through engaging in lunchtime activity that can produce a calm state of focus and well-being that lasts throughout the afternoon and into the evening.
This is important because coming home in a good mood has a significant impact on the quality of your home life. Well-being in your professional life that carries over into your personal life is a blessing to your entire family — and the opposite is true as well. Products like caffeine and sugar just don´t do the trick. You need a natural elixir rather than a temporary "fix."
Here is a solution. It's easier than you think.
Feeling Good is a Walk in the Park—Literally
Feeling good is not always about consuming; it is also about experiencing. Runners and other athletic types who spend their lunch hour in the gym can attest to the benefits of exertion — both mentally and physically.
But not everyone has the time, energy, physical ability, or motivation to spend the lunch hour engaging in physical activity of any type. Thankfully, research shows we do not need to in order to derive a benefit. Feeling good can be as easy as a short lunchtime walk in the park.
In a study entitled "Enhancing Daily Well-Being at Work" (2018), Marjaana Sianoja et al. examined the impact of lunchtime park walks and relaxation exercises on well-being.
They found that lunchtime park walks were linked with less afternoon fatigue and better concentration through a process of enjoyment. They found that relaxation promoted better afternoon concentration through a process of detachment.
The lesson here may be to make better use of your lunch break, as Sianoja et al. found that engaging in recovering activities over a lunch break contributes to a higher level of well-being at the end of the work day.
Regarding park walking, they note their results are consistent with previous research showing that spending time in natural environments helps individuals restore attentional resources and recover from stress. They also note their results are in line with prior research showing that spending time in natural surroundings boosts positive mood.
How long does your walk have to be? Sianoja et al. found that even 15-minute park walks added enjoyment to employees´ lunch breaks, perhaps because they provided a welcome change of scenery. Caveat: weather conditions were favorable during the course of their study, no doubt contributing to the enjoyment of the walks.
Working Night and Day Can Harm Your Marriage
A noontime picturesque walk in the park with good weather is a luxury only available to those who work during the day. Night workers, often morbidly referred to as carrying the "graveyard shift," have an entirely different schedule. Research shows that working at night may adversely impact both your mood and your marriage.
A study by Kelly D. Davis et al. (2008) found that people who have daytime work schedules are happier than those who worked nights or weekends.
Their first study, using a sample of employed, married adults, found that that "night work was associated with perceptions of greater marital instability, negative family work, and work-family spillover than weekend or daytime work."
Their second study found that people who worked on the weekends reported more daily work stressors than people who worked on weekdays.
The authors defined marital instability through reports of an increased amount of conflict and likelihood of divorce or separation. They measured work-family spillover as the extent to which positive or negative moods, experiences, or skills at work impact experiences at home, or vice versa.
Regarding a weekend work schedule, they found that as compared to a traditional weekday work schedule, weekend workers reported more stress both at work and with their spouse at home, depending on the type of job they had.
Working It Out
Obviously, not everyone has the luxury of changing their work hours. But hopefully you get a meal break somewhere during your shift. Even something as simple as making better use of scheduled breaks can enhance your well-being and improve your relationships — on and off the clock.
A version of this article was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 3,00 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.