When it comes to accomplishing your daily goals and tasks – at work or in your personal life — did you know you are more efficient when you take a break?
It’s easy to recognize that you need to step away from a project when you just can’t come up with a solution – walking, for example, can help relax your mind and inspire creative approaches to an issue.
But when you are clocking along on your daily tasks, it can be a little more difficult to know when you should take a break. It might even seem counterproductive to step away from a project when you have so much more to complete, but braking can actually throttle your productivity. That’s because your brain is engineered to notice and respond to change. Prolonged attention to a single task can lead to a decline in performance. Hitting the pause button briefly is enough to maintain your progress and efficiency.
Depending on the hours you work, break time is often most popular in the afternoon. However, another study shows that a mid-morning pause can actually be the most productive. In a Journal of Applied Psychology study of 1,000 different breaks taken, researchers found that a morning break offers more benefit (to our productivity, our health and our happiness) than an afternoon break.
Reviewing the daily breaks and surveys from participants (95 university administrators) after a five-day work week revealed that enjoyable morning breaks kept participants’ mental resources (energy, concentration and motivation) intact for the remainder of the day more so than an afternoon break. Additionally, the morning is typically the most productive time of day for many people when it comes to cognitive performance. To prevent your morning break from derailing any progress (say you get pulled into a conversation with a co-worker and suddenly 20 minutes has gone by), try starting your day with 90 minutes of focus sans interruption, then take your mid-morning break.
And what better way to enjoy a morning break than with a piping cup of coffee? Taking time for yourself to break can be almost like a mindfulness and meditative practice that allows you to slow down and appreciate the simpler things you experience each day, such as noticing the flavor of your coffee or the warmth and how it makes you feel. Several recent studies have linked the daily intake of coffee to multiple health and wellbeing benefits.
Here is what we know:
- The caffeine in coffee may help slow some cognitive decline associated with aging.
One study found that consuming moderate amounts of caffeine may lower your vulnerability to dementia or cognitive impairment as part of aging. This particular study looked at women, and their caffeine intake spanned from tea to coffee and even soda, which is not considered a healthy option.
- Coffee is helpful to your microbes (the billions of bacteria that live in your intestines and keep your body in working condition). Earlier this year, the journal Science published an article sharing that those who drink coffee, tea and even wine tend to have greater diversity when it comes to the microbes (bacteria) living in their digestive tracts. Some say that greater diversity in one’s microbe population might translate to better health because it means the host (person) is eating a variety of foods, which provide a variety of nutrients.
- Doing your work at a coffee shop can also persuade you to stay focused – concentration may be slightly contagious. This study showed that performing a task near a person who is exerting great effort on a task can, in fact, encourage you to follow suit.
Add Flavor – Not Calories – to Your Coffee
One cup of brewed coffee has no fat and only a few calories. Plain coffee is nutritious – it contains micronutrients, such as potassium, magnesium and niacin. If you’re worried your coffee has too much sugar and cream to possibly reap wellness rewards, there are several ways to add flavor to your morning coffee while limiting calories. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Spice up your coffee with spices. Give dried or fresh herbs and cocoa a try, too.
Consider these: cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, chocolate mint (the plant) or unsweetened cocoa. You can also try adding a ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract to smooth out the flavor of your morning coffee without adding sugar.
- Add a small scoop of coconut oil.
Adding coconut oil to replace creamers can have a similar effect – it makes your coffee creamy. Experts recommend only adding a small portion, such as a teaspoon, because about 80 percent of the calories from coconut oil come from saturated fat.
- Experiment with different milk options, and limit creams.
Try almond or rice milk as an alternative to regular milk. Coconut milk is another option. But just like coconut oil, coconut milk can contain high amounts of saturated fat. If you choose coconut milk, it is recommended that you only use a splash.
Other Healthy Coffee Guidelines:
- Try your best to avoid consuming coffee (caffeine) after 2 p.m. to ensure a good night’s rest.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners. Trick your taste buds by adding vanilla rather than sugar or sweeteners.
- Brew your coffee with a paper filter to remove any potentially harmful substances.
- Discover more about the coffee you enjoy, such as where the beans come from and the best way to prepare that type of coffee.
- Make your own guidelines. Just because the container recommends using 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds for each cup of coffee you brew, that doesn’t mean you must mindlessly comply. Do what works best for you. If you don’t enjoy strong coffee or if you want a less-jittery caffeinated feeling, add fewer coffee grounds to dilute it.
- Up to 400 mg of caffeine per day (roughly four 8-ounce cups of coffee) is considered safe.