Do you find yourself taking more “working lunches” than actual breaks? We get it. We want to give our day job our all, but as a result, we often work through lunch and wind up going without a midday break, especially if our coworkers are still hammering away. But it’s time to break the bad habit. Taking a lunch break is a small daily action that can have a big impact on your mental health. Plus, it could actually make you more productive. We partnered with Barilla® Ready Pasta to share the best ways to make sure you get your much-needed lunch break — and what to do with all that reclaimed time!

First, The WHY: Yes, It’s Important!

Okay, you value your boundless work ethic: You’re on the ball and ever-reliable, and you give every assignment 100 percent. Even still, a lunch break is not something to skip. Studies show that taking a break from work actually increases productivity and mental well-being. In other words, you’ll likely be sharper (and happier!) when you do return to your desk. Around Brit + Co HQ, when we’re really stuck on a work problem, stepping away from the issue and not thinking about it actually helps us find the solution. It’s the pint-size B+C version of “sleeping on it.” And, if nothing else, the simple act of standing up and taking a break from your screen is good for your physical health. Sitting for hours on end is not what our bodies were built to do.

Now, the HOW: 4 Ways to Make Sure Your Lunch Break Actually Happens

Now that we’ve convinced you to step away from your desk, here are some tips to sustain the habit and avoid getting sucked back into the work vortex.

1. Block off 30 minutes on your calendar. This one is essential! It’ll set expectations around your availability for your coworkers. At Brit + Co HQ, we’ve noticed that when people block off time for lunch on their cal, other folks feel motivated to take a lunch break too.

2. Turn off email notifications. Mute your email and messaging apps. The work world will spin on without you, and you’ll be right there to hop in after you take this well-earned breather.

3. Opt for a quick and satisfying lunch. Instead of spending a bulk of your break commuting to and from your go-to takeout spot, make Barilla Ready Pasta: delicious, fully-cooked pasta that’s ready in the microwave in just 60 seconds. Made with just three simple ingredients — fully cooked al dente pasta, extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt — simply add your own favorite ingredients and eat up. (Psst: We’re partial to topping the pasta with good ‘ol marinara, Parmesan, and chopped fresh basil.) Choosing this for lunch will leave you with ample time to recharge and refresh while getting the quality meal you need.

4. Stop checking the clock. When you’re away from your desk, worrying about how much time (or lack thereof) you have until you return to said desk will only eat away at your lunch break. Set an alarm for when you need to head back to the office so you’re not constantly checking the time.

Next, the WHAT: 8 Ways to Make the Most of Your Newly Reclaimed Time

The best-spent lunch break is one that feeds your body and clears your mind. Here are our favorite tried-and-true pastimes for making your lunch hour as rewarding as possible.

1. Have a quick picnic in the park. Pack up your Barilla Ready Pasta and head to a nearby park for a quick picnic (or shall we say… quicknic?). Even if it’s just 20 minutes, the relaxing environment, a satisfying meal, and a brief exodus from the hustle and bustle of your office will likely make a difference. Use the time to catch up on a book while you soak up the sun.

2. Dream up a side hustle. Dedicate some of your lunch hour to the passion project it feels like you never have time to pursue. Odds are, chipping away at it little by little, lunch by lunch, will help you take it from dream to reality.

3. Connect with a friend. Whether it’s writing an old-school letter to a long-distance pal, grabbing a mani-pedi with a coworker, or video chatting with your bestie, make this break an opportunity to get closer to a friend. Sometimes a good ol’ socializing session is all it takes to feel refreshed.

4. Wander around the neighborhood. Chances are, you haven’t spent much time in your office neighborhood outside of commuting there and back. Stroll around neighboring streets and get a sense of what the ‘hood is like in the middle of the day.

5. Listen to a podcast. By now you’re probably picking up the theme here: A well-spent lunch break is one that feeds your brain as well as your stomach. If you’re looking for relief from the crowds and chatter, put on some headphones and listen to an interesting podcast.

6. Call your mom. Do what your mom would recommend: Call her. Use the free time to get your dose of family gossip, ask those adulting questions you’ve yet to figure out on your own, or just plain catch up with the ‘rents.

7. Work out. Feeling restless or achy at your desk? Squeeze in a lunchtime workout. The outdoors is as good a gym as any — and it’s free! Check out these adaptable outdoor exercises for a quick and energizing midday fitness break.

8. Learn a new skill. What’s holding you back from learning that new skill you’ve been eyeing? Lack of time? Lack of resources? Laziness? All of the above? Welp, you now have a daily lunch break to spend learning! Use the time to take an online class or get your feet wet with the new hobby. Time for a lunch ’n’ learn!

Alright, enough pep-talkin’! You have the reasons to take a lunch break; tips to make it a sustainable habit; an easy, quality meal from Barilla Ready Pasta; *and* eight ways to spend your newfound time. In other words, you can totally do this! Have a good lunch, friends.

What’s your favorite way to spend your lunch break? We’d love to hear! Share with us on Twitter@BritandCo.

Author: Maddie Bachelder

Production + Styling: Kayla Haykin + Cassidy Miller

Photography: Brittany Griffin

Models: Huyen Le, Kris Stewart