Let’s face it, our smartphones are our new best friend.

C’mon, we don’t go anywhere without it and even take it into the bathroom with us (which, honestly, is probably the closest relationship we have compared to any other in our lives).

Picture credit: Meme.xyz

It’s also very likely that when you take a short break from work to relax your mind, you pick up your phone and start scrolling on social media. Right?

Well, according to new research, using your phone while taking a break isn’t rejuvenating your brain.

Researchers from Rutgers University Business School, New Jersey have found that using your phone on break during mentally challenging tasks doesn’t allow your brain to recharge effectively and instead may result in poorer performance.

To test this, the researchers gathered a bunch of college undergraduates (probably by offering them free food) and got them solving several challenging sets of word puzzles.

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Halfway through the exercise, some students were allowed to take breaks using their phones. Others were given papers or a computer during their breaks and some were not allowed a break at all.

The researchers observed that participants who used their phones during their break experienced the highest levels of mental depletion and were among the least capable of solving the puzzles afterwards.

In fact, their efficiency and quickness after their break were comparable to the group that took no break at all.

“The act of reaching for your phone between tasks, or mid-task, is becoming more commonplace. It is important to know the costs associated with reaching for this device during every spare minute. We assume it’s no different from any other break—but the phone may carry increasing levels of distraction that make it difficult to return focused attention to work tasks.” 

Terri Kurtzberg, Rutgers University Business School associate professor via Futurity

Therefore, while fiddling with your smartphone might be fun, it’s still tiring out your brain and, most importantly, isn’t giving your mind the rest it needs.

Speaking of the mind, which part of your brain actually needs those breaks?

According to Psychology Today, it’s most likely your prefrontal cortex (PFC), the thinking part of your brain.

Picture credit: Meme.xyz

Therefore, a good break should give your PFC a much-needed rest by switching brain activity to another area.

The 5 activities below will help refresh and recharge your mind by activating brain regions other than your PFC.

1. Walking or exercise.

Yes, we know it doesn’t seem like the best idea in our hot Malaysian weather. But you can walk indoors too. The point is to get up and move. Walking breaks have also shown to trigger more creative ideas compared to a sitting break. 

2. Connect with nature… or a streetscape.

Apparently, walking on a nature path induces a calm state of mind, while walking along city streets amps up engagement. So, plan your environment based on what you’ll need for the next work task!

3. Change your environment. 

Leaving your work environment and going to another area for a short moment will help your brain rest and switch gears, even if it’s just sitting in the office pantry for a couple of minutes.

4. Get creative. 

If your work requires you to use your logical, linguistic left-brain a lot, choose a break activity that activates your creative and visual right-brain. Activities like drawing, colouring, or just doodling are perfect.

5. Take a “power nap”—if it won’t get you fired.

At the end of the day, if you’re feeling tired, the best thing is a quick nap. Power naps are known to make you more alert, reduce stress, and improve cognitive functioning.

Doesn’t break time feel a lot better now?

(Reach for your cell phone at your own risk: The cognitive costs of media choice for breaks)
(How Do Work Breaks Help Your Brain? 5 Surprising Answers)

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