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When you’re really busy, pausing for 10 minutes can make you feel a lot better. If you have a tendency to skip breaks when there is work to be done, try to go a bit easier on yourself –  taking 10 minutes here and there will allow you de-stress and help you be more productive in the long run.

However, what you do in these brief intervals makes a difference. Social media, for example, won’t be much help if you want to relax. We’ve compiled what we think are the best 10 ways to spend your 10-minute downtime.

Nature time

Getting outdoors and into a natural setting is more important than many people realise. As we reported in an earlier OSM blog the effect that nature has on our overall well-being is profound.

To start, time spent in nature makes enhances your subjective wellbeing. In other words, it makes you happier. In 2015, Stanford researcher Greg Bratman and his colleagues scanned the brains of 38 volunteers before and after 90 minute walks either in a park or on a busy street. Those who walked through nature displayed decreased activity in the part of the brain associated with depressive thoughts. This was consistent with participants reports of feeling happier and more positive.

There is also a growing body of scientific evidence indicating that time spent in nature enhances higher-order thinking, restores attention and boosts creativity. In a 2012 study, US researchers Ruth Ann Atchley, David Strayer and Paul Atchleyexamined the impact of nature on backpackers’ performances on a standard creativity test, with one 60-person group tested before their hike, and the second group tested four days in. The second group performed a remarkable 50% better after their days-long immersion in nature. The researchers concluded, “there is a cognitive advantage to be realised if we spend time immersed in a natural setting”.


American philosopher and author Henry Thoreau claimed: “the moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow”. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” That these two human idea factories put so much faith in the power of walking should indicate something of its value in the creative process.

You don’t have to take it on testimony, however. In 2014, a Stanford University study titled “Give your ideas some legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking” found that: “walking boosts creative ideation in real time and shortly after”. Not only are you more creative while walking, but there is a residual effect well after you put your feet up. The study’s authors believe that “walking opens up the free flow of ideas” and called the activity “a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”

If you have access to a natural setting nearby, you can combine this option with the previous suggestion for a double dose of goodness!


A certain wise man named Confucius once said: “No matter how busy you think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” Few would disagree that reading is a great antidote to ignorance, yet reading in the age of television has suffered something of a decline in popularity. Fight the trend (and the ignorance) – pick up a book in your break.

Not only will reading stimulate your intellect, it also promotes a calm, contemplative mindset. Moreover, reading fiction has been shown to increase our empathy, as explained in this article for the Scientific American. If all that isn’t enough, it happens to be a powerful habit to enhance your creativity – as we outlined in a previous OSM blog. Even 10 minutes a day reading (and you can do better than that) will get you through around 15 books a year – not bad at all!


The restorative benefits of filling a journal with simple, stream of consciousness writing are broadly known. Still, it’s hard to overstate the ameliorative effects of 10 minutes uninterrupted word flow. The process of uninhibited writing relaxes you, sparks new ideas, aids in processing, understanding, and learning from your experiences, gets you in touch with your subconscious and, over time, improves your writing abilities.

This is particularly good to alternate with bouts of reading, especially the reading of literature, which is a massive boon for your writing skills. If you don’t have one already, get yourself a journal and keep it on hand for a spare 10 minutes of journaling. Having these journals to look back at can also a wonderful thing – they have a unique power to evoke old sentiments and memories.


When we wrote about some of the amazing things that exercise does for your mind and body in a previous OSM blog even we were surprised at how big a difference it can make in your life. Problem is, many people argue, there’s just not enough time. But it’s amazing how quick you can whip up a sweat. High intensity, short duration cardio is a time-effective way to get the benefits of physical activity. Slip on your running shoes or jump on your bike and get the heart pumping. At the right pace, this shouldn’t take long.

Alternatively, there are a number of comprehensive workouts that can make your muscles ache in no time at all – even without access to a gym. Take a look at Freeletics, which made our list of the 10 best fitness apps available. Freeletics allows you to curate bodyweight workouts for any length of time you like, as well as a whole lot else.

For a gentle option, you can always take 10 for some gentle stretching. Although any decent yoga or pilates session will undoubtedly involve strength and sweat, there are a ton of straightforward static stretches that can make a big difference to your range and ease of movement – like these here.


Meditation might be the perfect antidote to our age of relentless frenzy. Why not take a moment or two to find some tranquility amid the turmoil. Re-enter the fray with a renewed sense of clarity and calm. You can read more about the growing body of evidence supporting long-held claims about meditation’s wide-ranging benefits in our  OSM meditation blog.

In this 2014 study from Leiden University, cognitive psychologistLorenza Colzato noted that “certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking even if you have never meditated before… you don’t need to be an experienced meditator to profit more from meditation.” She surmised that “meditation induces a control state that promotes divergent thinking, a style of thinking that allows new ideas to be generated”.

Regardless of whether you usually mediate, try it the next time you’re struggling with a problem – you might be surprised.

TED Talk

If you’re going to be looking at a screen, looking at something informative, inspirational or some combination of both is a good idea. TED Talks fit the category, and there are plenty of them that conform to the 10-minute timeframe. Here’s a list of talks between 6 and 12 minutes.

Expressing gratitude

It really pays to take a moment during a busy day to remember that it’s not all work and struggle – there is much to be thankful about.Taking stock of what and who you are grateful for is a rewarding exercise. One good way of spending a 10-minute break might not involve making yourself feel good, but rather taking some time to tell someone else that you appreciate them and what they do. And even if making yourself feel good isn’t the intention, reciprocal warmth and benefits of fostering gratitude in your relationships will no doubt have that effect in the fullness of time.


This might like strange advice, when directed at adults. But spending 10 minutes absently doodling is an awesome way to relax – as anyone who does it will tell you. Even if you’re not drawing realistically, you can often express your ideas, worries or plans in a visual way that helps you understand them better.

Nothing at all

In an age where many of us feel pressured to be productive all the time, simply doing nothing at all is an act of rebellion – a statement that life is not measured in ticks on to-do lists. Take 10 to chill. Take 10 to sit and stare at nothing in particular. Take 10 minutes, or heck why not 20, to let your mind wander where it may – not meditating, simply, being. Let that stress dissolve in idleness and return to work refreshed.

Let us know if the comments if you have found benefits from taking time out.


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