Good Eats, Good Mood: Personal Choice Makes A Lunch Break Great

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October 9, 2013 ‐ By Ann Brown
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Can lunch change your mood? It sure can, according to a new study shows that how you spend your midday break matters less than whether or not you have the choice to lunch on your own terms, reports The Huffington Post.

In other words, the best lunch break is one in which you decide how to spend it. Don’t let your job dictate that you lunch at your desk when you really want to take a break outdoors, for example. “Need for autonomy is a fundamental psychological need, and past research shows that a feeling of autonomy is energizing on its own,” study co-author Dr. Ivona Hideg, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Wilfrid Laurier University’s School of Business in Canada, explained The Huffington Post. “More specifically to lunch breaks, having autonomy over our lunch break activities gives us an opportunity to utilize our time in a way that suits us the best.”

The study surveyed 103 administrative workers at a large university, asking them how they spent their lunch breaks over a 10-day period, The Atlantic reported. Then, the researchers asked each person’s co-workers how tired that person seemed to be by the end of each work day.

“We found that a critical element was having the freedom to choose whether to [work through lunch] or not,” study co-author Dr. John Trugakos, associate professor in the department of management at the University of Toronto, wrote. “The autonomy aspect helps to offset what we had traditionally thought was not a good way to spend break time.”

There were some common links between lunchtime activities and levels of fatigue. If you participate in relaxing activities during lunch that you personally choose, it may lead to the least amount of reported fatigue at the end of the day. Doing work during lunch may result in appearing more tired. This is reduced when the choice to work was your own personal decision. Surprisingly, socializing during lunch may actually lead to higher levels of fatigue if you’re with people you can’t necessarily be yourself with, such as certain co-workers or your boss.

This study will be published in the October issue of the Academy of Management Journal.

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