How to Get More out of a 5-Minute Break

Whether you work from home, in a cubicle, or at a call center, you likely take a few breaks during the day (rare though they may be). They may be so short and fleeting, in fact, that you’re tempted to let them pass by altogether.

Don’t do this. Why? Because there’s a lot that happens, and can happen, in the short, sweet span of a 5-minute break: You can stretch your body, shift your mood, have a laugh, take a few deep breaths, or change your perspective (by looking somewhere besides your screen). The benefits of this brief respite go beyond the chance to flip through Facebook (again). Instead, you can use it to recharge your batteries, reduce the negative effects of stress, and reconnect to your sense of well-being.

Stumped on how to do all that in a short break? Here are 25 (yes, 25!) quick ideas to rejuvenate your body, mind, and spirit. Try one or two—you’ll be better off than you were five minutes ago.

  • Take a tech-free break. Lift your eyes off your screen(s) and check out the scene around you. Just changing your field of vision gives your brain a chance to recharge.
  • Find a quiet corner, close your eyes, and breathe in for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale completely to a count of eight.
  • Step outside and let the sun shine on your face, arms, back, or legs (sans sunscreen). The vitamin D boost is good in the moment and over time.
  • Send a video message. Yes—you can use tech to create something meaningful. Forget text: Film yourself delivering a 30 second message, telling an audience of one how much you appreciate him.
  • Surprise one friend with an actual phone call. No answer? Leave a fun message.
  • Walk around and connect with as many people as you can, even if it’s brief or little more than a pat on the back.
  • Compliment more than one person. See how many genuine kind words you can share in under five minutes. (Read more on how to improve your resilience through generosity.)
  • Take a brisk walk. Outside is recommended.
  • Check your posture. This simple exercise can change how you breathe and feel: Imagine a string connected to the top of your skull, drawing you upward toward the ceiling. Feel yourself getting longer and lighter, your ribcage floating over your pelvis.
  • Do a speed round: ten wall push-ups, ten toe touches, ten squats, and a ten-second wall sit. (Check out 30 more ideas for quick, non-sweaty desk-ercises.)
  • Choose a food that tastes really good—a sliced apple with some almond or peanut butter, for example, or a small cup of soup.
  • Drink some water. You may not think about it much—but being dehydrated can really slow you down. Replenish your inner resources with 8 oz right now.
  • Savor a snack. Post a pic of a snack you love on Instagram. Take a few deep breaths before diving in. As you eat, pay attention to the appearance, textures, and flavors of your food.
  • Read that article you saw two weeks ago on Facebook and keep meaning to check out.
  • Dip a few pages into a novel.
  • Watch an inspirational TED talk (or part of one).
  • Check in on a friend who’s going through a tough time. Even if it’s just a text that says you’re thinking of her.
  • Write a list of 10 things that you are grateful for.
  • Name two positive outcomes for every situation that has you worried.
  • Tune into a negative thought that’s been rattling around your head all day and Trap, Map, and Zap them.
  • Straighten up your workspace. You’ll clear your mind and feel more in control of your day.
  • Do a quick purse or wallet dump. Clean out all the old gum wrappers and receipts and put back only what you really need. (Read more on how to declutter your mind.)
  • Brew—and sip—some tea. Never underestimate the calming ritual of even a simple tea ritual. Try a different flavor, such as lavender, chamomile, or peppermint.
  • Find that belly laugh. Watch that dog video everyone’s been sharing lately, a clip of a great sitcom, or a few minutes of your favorite comedian’s stand-up routine.
  • Hit play. Listen to five minutes of the most beautiful music you have at hand—the tunes that make you feel calm and positive about the world.
  • Call your mother. You know she wants to hear from you. And while this may not be at the top of your list, you can handle anything for five minutes. You’ll feel great knowing you’ve just done a very loving thing.