What If Grown-Up Recess Was Mandatory?

What if grown-up recess was mandatory?

Yesterday, my personal “Grumpo-Meter” measured at a ten.

I woke up not having slept well, and I was in a funk. I felt all “hormoney” and ready to masticate the head off anyone who got in my way. My dad used to say, “Just lookin’ for a reason.” That was me, “lookin’ for a reason.”

I started my workday by sending the same email to the wrong person twice and then spent an hour drafting entirely the wrong content for a podcast I am giving in two days. There were other careless errors, and at one point I just stood up and looked around not sure what I should screw up next.


Then came the voice of one of my chiropractic school professors, Dr. Desarbo.

“When you have a crappy start to the work day, stop. Literally, stop, turn around and head outside. Maybe for ten minutes, might be for the rest of the day, but you owe it to yourself, your patients, and the work to not inflict that version of you on anything or anyone.”

Dr. D was a stout Italian gentleman, with giant sausage fingers. When he spoke, even posthumously, you listened.

Do you know there is a school in Texas that reinstituted not one, but four breaks a day for their students? After taking recess away for “academic purposes” it was soon realized that the kids were not doing better, they were doing worse.

Without a recess, acting out, learning disorders, ADD, ADHD, comprehension and many other student issues were on the rise. This school and others realized that a break throughout the day refocused the children, improved learning, and retention, and created a calmer more productive classroom.

Huh. Recess.

A fifteen-minute break involving teeter-totters, running, spinning, punching tether balls, chasing, being chased, and other mindless free-form endeavors.

Back to yesterday and me standing in the middle of my office. “What if recess was mandatory for grown-ups?”

It felt like exactly what I needed. Hey, maybe others do too!

What if every single day a bell rang at ten and you dropped what you were doing, ran outside screaming like a maniac, and you and Martha, the hygienist from the dental office in your building, chased a soccer ball around the parking lot?

Recess!! And not just for crappy work days, for every work day!

Shifting your brain away from “decision-making mode,” combined with movement and random activity, could be a masterful tool. This short and active mental shift might make us more effective at what we do and kinder and calmer in the process.

But this grown-up recess concept needs parameters. All recesses have parameters. No pushing, no shoving, play nice, kind of parameters.


MOVEMENTThis one is non-negatable. Swing your arms, jiggle around, jumping jacks, squats or dance. Anything to get your joints going through ranges of motion in ways that they typically don’t in the normal movements of your days. This proprioceptive input creates a happy hormone cascade that stimulates positive mood shifts and focus. Check out four simple moves from this article

TECH FREE – Leave your phone- Checking your phone heightens “task mode” of brain function which is what you are hoping to get away from during recess. “Like” this, “comment” on that, swipe away from something else is tasky activity that further fatigues your brain, rather than provide a true rest or a break. Leave your phone in the office.  Learn more in this interview With James Garrett.

OUTSIDE – Your brain feeds off the combination of fresh air, a change of visual stimuli, and nature. Make sure to look around and find the most beautiful thing you can focus on. This is actually a form of meditation. What? Meditation in the middle of your day? Observing nature lowers heart rate and drops stress hormones, a perfect outcome to your short break from work.  Check out the benefits of an outdoor break here.

GROUND YOURSELF – Connecting with the earth by walking barefoot in the grass or dirt is an incredible source of negatively charged energy that on which the health of our body depends. You may not always be able to slip off your shoes and socks but if you can, do! You will be surprised at the calming effect! Learn more from this blog post on grounding

BREATHE – There are several wonderful breathing techniques you can employ during recess. But even just deep breaths in and out, slower and deeper than normal are effective. Here are some fantastic additional breathing options you can practice on your mini-break. Check out this video teaching a few simple breathing techniques.

A grown-up recess. It makes sense, right? How can you incorporate a recess into your schedule? How about this week you set an alarm (school bell perhaps) on your phone to remind you to get outside for your fifteen-minute break? Report back! I want to hear how it worked for you!


2 Responses

  1. Thank U for this…gonna slow down a bit and try to have my team start doing this…they’ll love it and work will be a happy place!

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About Dr. Denniston

Dr. Denniston is a wellness strategist for elite leaders and their teams, bridging the connection between personal well-being and professional success. She provides custom solutions for burnout and stress and facilitates cohesive habit-training strategies that maximize vitality, productivity, and resilience.

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