How to take regular breaks throughout the day to support your mental wellbeing

A mug and books on a bed

Mind Bright’s Kristy von Minden learnt first-hand the importance of giving our wired brains a break. She reveals one simple exercise that will help to relax your mind.

The Italians have a special word for the sweetness of doing nothing, dolce far niente. It’s something the founder of mindfulness consultancy Mind Bright Kristy von Minden wishes to impart to us living in the ‘can do’ nation.

Kristy von Minden reading with a cup of tea
Kristy von Minden.

Blame it on our busy, technology-driven age, but it can be hard to catch our breath some days, let alone slow down and focus on our breathing techniques. “Our to-do lists are never-ending, and because the world never stops these days, we don’t have permission to sign off at 5pm or on the weekends like our parents used to be able to,” says Kristy. “We can logon to internet banking at any time to pay our bills, visit the supermarket at midnight, reply to endless messages from anywhere or continue working long after we’ve left the physical office on our phones and laptops.”

As Tony Schwartz and his team at global consultancy The Energy Project has found, we are using our brains like machines, working them hard and fast all day. “Our brains are our most energy-hungry muscle, so no wonder we are all so exhausted despite the fact most of us sit in our offices all day,” adds Kirsty.

Legs in denim resting on a wooden table

Instead, we need to think about the bigger picture. The Energy Project recommends we work on a task for no more than 90 minutes before doing something to recharge our mental energy for 10-20 minutes. “This will not only refresh our cognition so we can focus better at the task at hand when we return to it, but we will actually get more done in less time,” says Kristy. “It also stops us from overloading our brains with too much information to process – which is that feeling of overwhelm that many of us experience throughout the day.”

Breaks during the workday could include stepping away from our computer to have a friendly chat with a co-worker, eating our lunch outside, a brisk walk around the block, a meditation, a few minutes of belly breathing – even doing the dishes can count as giving your brain a break if you WFH.

Seascape in muted colours with low sun

Activating the relaxation response can take patience and practice. Even Kristy had to remind herself of the importance of trying to take breaks after choosing a more mindful career path. “Sure enough, the more I practised, the easier it got and now I absolutely crave my sweet moments of doing nothing.”


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