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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

4 Expert-Backed 10-Minute Distractions if You Need to Not Think About Work for a While

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You know it's healthy to take breaks, especially during the workday. They help us stay focused and prevent fatigue. Not to mention what happens when you sit at a desk all day.

You may have heard of the 20-20-20 rule, where every 20 minutes you look 20 feet away from your computer screen for 20 seconds. But what if you need something a little longer? It may not always be feasible to take an hour for lunch, or even run out for coffee, but odds are you can scrape 10 minutes together for a midday break.

Once you make the time, here are some simple, expert-backed ways to take a quick, rejuvenating break.

1. Take a Walk

Your instincts are right. When you're ready to walk out, you probably need to, so hit refresh by leaving your work environment completely.

If you're lucky enough to have an office near a park or on a tree-lined street, go for a quick stroll al fresco. The idea of forest bathing was first introduced in Japan in 1980s, and the benefits have been studied since. A dose of trees can boost your immune system, intuition, energy, and feelings of happiness.

And the more green you duck under, the more stress your leafy allies absorb. Only one tree in your concrete jungle? Stand beneath it. Pat it (maybe no one will notice). Lean on it while you scroll through your Facebook feed.

No trees? Thankfully, you are breathing their oxygen. Do so, deeply, while outdoors. Gaze at the sky for a few minutes to refresh your internal screen, and return with new eyes and a fresh mind.

2. Have Apps at the Ready

If you're less a tree-hugging type and prefer instead to caress your phone, that's OK, too. Download an app like Laughable that gives you access to comedy shows and a variety of funny podcasts. According to staff at the Mayo Clinic, laughter stimulates your organs, relieves stress and tension, and has multiple long-term benefits.

Your smartphone is never far, and let's face it: you already reach for it a hundred times a day. For every time you do, there are thousands of apps you could be trying on your break! Find a handful that promote health and rest, like Salute the Desk (desk yoga) Breathe to Relax (helps you practice diaphragmatic breathing), or Headspace (meditation).

3. Take a Mind Trip

Still have a lot on your mind?

Johanna Schneider of the Toburan Wholistic Health Initiative recommends this (offline) meditation: With hand in lap, touch your thumb to your pointer, middle, ring, and pinky fingers, and back again slowly—ring, middle, and home to your pointer. Breathe deeply, think positive thoughts, and repeat with your other hand. Instead of closing your eyes, focus on a natural object that reminds you of a place you felt deeply alive.

Now, hold the object in your hand as you relive your memory. Close your eyes and stroll the quaint streets of Killarney, sweat out the Inca Trail, or walk the woods near Grandma's. If you prefer, choose a meditation app or bookmark a site that guides you through a short walk in nature. Listen to the rustle of leaves instead of those papers on your desk, until you can calmly face them again.

4. Refresh Your Screen

Need an easy break without leaving your desk? Change your screen (after completing the 20-20-20 rule, of course). Visit a site that makes you smile, inspires you, invites you to play, or awakens your creativity.

If you've exhausted all those cat videos (which is near impossible), check out some humans at the GoodNewsNetwork. Read the inspiring quote of the day, peruse the latest good news articles (featuring do-gooders and uplifting stories), and, in case you are in need of a good reason for today to exist, check the On This Day in History section.

For days you don't really feel like relating, bookmark [One Motion] ( Choose from delightful distractions like old school video games, sketch and paint tools, and a drum machine or DJ “turntable" that quickly turns you into a break-time virtuoso.

Bonus Tips

Want more? Here are a few extra tips to re-energize yourself and get your head back in the game:

  • Hair Squeeze: Acupuncturist Jodi Rose says to clasp your hand close to your scalp, and gently pull hair away from the roots to increase blood flow and energy (maybe try this one when your co-workers aren't watching).

  • Stretch it Out: If you weren't able to get up and out on your break, try some of these desk stretches to keep your body moving and your blood flowing.

  • Brain Reset: Visit the Energizing Brain Breaks blog for fun ways to get your head back in the game—like thumb wars with an officemate!

    Whether you laugh it off, walk it off, or leave it entirely for a few minutes, choosing one of these methods each time you need a break from the office will help you lose the tension that keeps you from working—and living—to your fullest potential.