It's time to Take a Break - Here's why

breaks diy retreat Jun 15, 2024
Take a Break

You might believe that the key to success in life is to work harder, to be more productive, to be more efficient. 

When things get tough, you might respond by doubling down. By trying to do even more. By giving it your all. 

In some cultures, being busy is a status symbol. The answer to “how are you”, is universally some derivative of “I'm sooooooo busy”. Being frenzied is celebrated. Being at calm and at ease is weird and unusual ("you seem so calm, did you just come back from vacation?").

It turns out, there is plenty of evidence to support that our overly-busy approach is hurting more than it’s helping. Being in a constantly harried state is harming our nervous system, it's pulling down our productivity, and it is negatively impacting our health. 

Research consistently confirms that taking regular breaks, especially when these breaks are spent doing nothing at all, actually improves memory, creativity, and decision-making capabilities. Quality, frequent rest, even in small incrementals, helps reduce stress and improve mental and physical health. 

In today’s post, we explore some of the research on taking breaks, and share some resources focused on taking more/better quality breaks. The goal is for you to walk away knowing that breaks are important and worthwhile, and to give you permission to play the long game by taking regular breaks to support your physical and mental wellbeing. Let’s get started!


What does the research tells us on the value and impact taking breaks?

While there's an abundance of data to support that regularly taking breaks has a multitude of benefits, there's almost no credible data that supports the opposing position. The very limited research on the "cons" of taking breaks basically tells us we need to be mindful of when we schedule those breaks (to avoid interrupting momentum), and that some work cultures are perceived to discourage break taking (although this is often personal perception rather than fact).

Conversely, study after study reaffirms the positive impacts of taking breaks on productivity, creativity and health. Here are just a few:

"The Science of Rest: The Benefits of Giving Your Brain a Break" by Ferris Jabr, published in Scientific American in 2013, summarizes several studies that demonstrate that breaks and resting can improve memory consolidation, creativity, and problem-solving. Jabr summarizes: "Research has shown that our brains are often most active when we're not consciously thinking about anything in particular." By denying ourselves these periods of recovery, we are robbing ourselves from serious creative potential. "Resting and doing nothing may seem counterproductive, but research suggests that it can actually lead to greater creativity and innovation in the long run."

"The Value of Doing Nothing" by Manfred Kets de Vries (1999). This article, published in the Harvard Business Review, suggests that taking breaks and doing nothing can actually improve decision-making and lead to greater creativity and innovation. This paper cites a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management that found that employees who take breaks throughout the day are more productive and focused, and another by the University of Illinois found that people who take breaks during the day are more creative and better able to solve problems than those who work straight through.

"How to Take Better Breaks at Work, According to Research" by Zhanna Lyubykh and Duygu Biricik Gulseren (2023) through a systematic review of over 80 studies confirms that "pausing work throughout the day can improve well-being and also help with getting more work done". 


Mindfulness Incubator Blog Posts on the importance of breaks, and how to get more out of them

Investing in breaks big and small matters. Without downtime, we cannot be our best selves, and we cannot live life with purpose and ease. Taking regular breaks sometimes requires a bit of advance planning and intentional behaviors. For most of us, they don't just "happen" by accident.

In the blog post Skill building: Better focus. Better breaks, we share some of our best tips for how to improve the quantity, regularity and quality of breaks. Some tips from this article include:

  • Taking regular “resets” between activities (which we call micro-breaks). In this intentional practice, we introduce a pause (thirty seconds to two minutes) between activities to look outside or take some deep breaths (this is not looking at the phone). 
  • Scheduling longer breaks and buffers throughout the day and ensuring that this time is spent on things that actually help with downwinding and getting time away from devices. If you find find that this time gets encroached on by other tasks, schedule time for those competing activities (for example checking email) to help create the space to truly take a break. 

In the blog post Retreats at any budget (including DIY!), we hone in on the importance of ALSO taking longer breaks. Resetting throughout the day is fabulous, but it's also important to invest in longer, more meaningful recovery. The linked blog post shares a step by step for to create this space, and also includes a handy DIY Retreat guide so you can access the restorative powers of a few days away at any budget. 

At Mindfulness Incubator, we are big proponents of the value of a investing in a retreat. We created the Mindfulness Incubator Resilience Immersion Retreat because we couldn't find anything like it: a dedicated, immersive, all inclusive experience that combines the luxury of an incredible venue, outstanding culinary creations, gentle movement, the restorative qualities of being immersed in nature, and supportive workshops focused on self awareness, self care, and building a clear vision, goals and habits. Whether you take a few days at our retreat, or curate your own experience, we encourage you to invest in yourself. We promise you won't regret it. 


Some of our Favorite Books that include inspiration for the importance of taking Breaks

We’ve covered some of these books in our prior blog posts focused on book recommendations. 

From Five Books to help you find more Perspective & Ease


Unicorn Space - Eve Rodsky

In her book "Unicorn Space," Eve Rodsky argues that women need more than just a break from their daily responsibilities; they need space to do nothing. She explores the idea that in our busy lives, we often neglect simply being. Rodsky believes that creating "unicorn space" - a term she uses to describe uninterrupted, stress-free time - can help women become more creative, productive, and fulfilled. Through personal anecdotes, interviews, and research, she offers practical strategies for creating unicorn space in one's life. 


Tranquility by Tuesday - Laura Vanderkam

In "Tranquility by Tuesday," Laura Vanderkam emphasizes the need to build moments of tranquility into our schedules to improve productivity, creativity, and well-being. By prioritizing tranquility, Vanderkam suggests that we can reduce stress, increase happiness, and improve our overall quality of life. 


From Our 10 Favorite Reads of 2021

Essentialism - Greg McKeown

"Essentialism" by Greg McKeown is a book that challenges the idea that we can have it all and do it all. McKeown argues that in order to achieve our goals and live a meaningful life, we need to focus on what is essential and eliminate the non-essential. He emphasizes the importance of creating space to think, reflect, and recharge, and argues that taking time to do nothing is essential for productivity and creativity. By focusing on what is essential and creating space for downtime, McKeown suggests that we can live a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

Your next action item

What do you do with all this? We invite you to consider three easy to implement steps:

  1. Next time you finish an activity and you’re tempted to dive right into the next one, don’t. Take a few moments to breathe, look outside, go for a walk, or do something else that helps you disconnect, even for just a few moments.
  2. Schedule breaks for your upcoming workweek. Aim for a few spots each day where you can not “do”, and instead simply “be”.
  3. If you’re curious, do some more reading on the topic! Pick up any of the excellent book recommendations highlighted in this post, or go check out our other blog posts on the topic.

BONUS STEP: Schedule longer renewal, whether it's the Mindfulness Incubator Resilience Immersion Retreat, a few days solo using our DIY Retreat guide, or another experience you are excited about that creates time and space for you to reconnect to yourself. Investing in yourself ALWAYS pays off. You deserve it!

Actual photo taken during one of our Mindfulness Incubator Retreats

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