Ditch the Al-Desko Dining – Why a lunch break should be a clean break

For many Aussie office workers, a lunch break means downing a take-out sandwich or stir-fry at your desk, while you spend 20 minutes checking out the sports or news websites. Then it’s back to work, and that’s only if you haven’t been interrupted by an email alert or a fellow colleague needing something from you NOW.

While this may seem like an efficient way of fuelling your body and your brain when you have deadlines to meet, it may not be the case. Here are a few reasons to get outside in the fresh air and have a clean break from work at lunchtime.

Your productivity and positive mood will increase

A research study by Hays showed that a large proportion of people believe their employer will think they’re more committed if they eat at their desk.  The same study revealed that even a short break of just 15 minutes away from work can increase productivity levels. Having a quick break from work and getting in some physical activity will recharge the brain and get those happy hormones firing. A lunchtime walk can improve enthusiasm, relaxation and mood for the rest of the day, a study showed.

You’ll be less stressed

At Ritualize, we have a Green Time ritual and for good reason. Spending time outside in nature has long been associated with lower stress levels. If you work near a park it’s probably the best place to spend your lunch-break, especially if you are having a stressful day. Having a pot plant on your desk has also been shown to improve employee wellbeing.

You’ll eat more mindfully

Another ritual we encourage is mindful eating. Picture this. You’re at your computer in the middle of an important email, only to break for a few seconds to pick up your salad sandwich, take a big bite before your focus returns to the email. Before you know it, you’ve eaten the whole sandwich without even realising it.  When you are focussed on what’s on your screen, it’s taking your awareness away from what you are eating which can slow down your digestion and your satiety. Emerging research is also suggesting that eating mindfully, or slower and more thoughtfully, could affect your food choices.

Your social life may increase

Eating lunch at your desk means eating lunch solo. There’s a lot of evidence out now to link social connectedness to happiness. Going out with fellow work colleagues and socialising could increase your mood and help get you through the afternoon with less stress.

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How to Manage Weekend Binging…

You’re good all week, eating healthy food, having alcohol-free days and exercising.  Then (thank God) Friday comes along. Time to hit the pub with friends, indulge in pizza for dinner or have a few wines while watching a movie. Saturday morning arrives and you may go to the gym followed by a huge brunch at your favourite cafe and maybe a slice of cheesecake. By Monday morning you’re feeling sluggish, tired guilty and like you’ve gone backwards.  

Sounds familiar?

Most people want to let loose and unwind on the weekend, especially if they’ve been doing so well during the week. It’s a reward and a way to start relaxing. Let’s face, it’s about having fun in the moment. But the guilt, anger and regret that come at the end of the weekend isn’t helpful. So, what can we do to still enjoy the weekends without feeling like we’ve taken 5 steps back?

Most of us are unconsciously dictated by what day it is and this could be the answer to the weekend bingeing. If you are striving for perfection on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday then you are relying a lot on willpower. Willpower is like fuel in a car, it can run out the more you drive the car. Then you relax a bit on Thursday (afterall, Friday is looming) then let loose Friday, Saturday, Sunday because you have no willpower left so it’s all systems go!

What if you didn’t strive to be perfect during the week?  This is the thinking behind our 80/20 days. You don’t have to be perfect.  Eat real, healthy food 80% of the time, but if you do fancy a glass of wine with dinner or a bowl of ice-cream after dinner, then count that as your 20%. The only rule is you don’t go beyond that 20% and have the wine and the ice-cream.  Trade one thing off for another. Choose your daily treat wisely, have the best quality you can afford and really enjoy it.

If you take being ‘perfect’ out of the equation, it relieves the pressure and the need for willpower.  Our approach allows you to set your own food rules based on the 80/20 approach, so food choices aren’t difficult and best of all, there aren’t any ‘cheat days’ because you are giving yourself permission to indulge in that 20% if you want it.

This approach also allows you to be in charge of your own choices, providing they are within the 80/20 range.

If your weekend indulges are working for you, of course keep going. You know yourself what works for you. But if you find you’re feeling conflicted and don’t enjoy the feeling at the end of the weekend, you can experiment with the 80/20 approach during the week and see how that affects your weekend.

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Exercise, Nutrition & Sleep

Hugh Van Cuylenburg from The Resilience Project talks about 3 daily research-backed activities that have been shown to help prevent mental health issues in children and adults, and improve symptoms where there are existing problems.  These 3 activities are:

  • Gratitude
  • Mindfulness
  • Empathy.  

The research is showing if you practise these 3 things everyday for 21 days it will improve your happiness.

Sounds simple!  Although these tools are the focus of his talks, he did say they will not work without exercise, good nutrition and sleep – so in this blog we’ll explore why that is.


Moving your body a lot (whether it’s sport or walking the dog) will release feel-good chemicals (hormones) in your body called endorphins.  You want endorphins because they make you feel happy and relaxed.  Exercise also releases other chemicals important for mood and motivation, called serotonin and dopamine – and if that’s not enough, it releases growth factors which help your brain to grow and adapt (a process known as neuroplasticity). Conversely, sitting for hours on end, on computer games, or computer or watching TV makes most people feel tired and grumpy and is disruptive to our brain chemistry.


Having a few treats every now can make us feel happy, but when we have too many it can affect our mood. There is a connection between what you eat and how you feel. Research is showing that if you eat lots of fruit, vegetables and whole-grains it can boost your mood.  Eating loads of sugar and processed food (ie ‘junk food’) may cause your mood to decline.  Although it’s complex, this could be related to the link between our gut and the brain (called the gut-brain axis) – for example, over 90 percent of the mood enhancing neurotransmitter serotonin is produced in our gut and not our brain. If our gut isn’t happy, it sends messages up to the brain and in turn affects our mood.


Sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise. Nothing good comes from not getting enough sleep. Sleep affects mood, learning and behaviour.  It also helps us get better if we’re sick. When we’re sick, sleep produces infection-fighting proteins called cytokines, which also make us feel sleepy. That’s why when we’re not feeling well, we also feel tired.  It’s our body telling us to rest. Sleep is also the time when our brains flush out toxins and repair and strengthen our brain cells. It’s like sleep is the time our brains take out the rubbish.

So, in summary – practising gratitude, mindfulness and empathy along with eating well, moving a lot and getting a good night’s sleep are the keys to a healthy, happy life.