24 Mindfulness

Table 4.2 - Mindfulness Strategies
Three Breathing Exercises Explanation
The Conscious Breath Think about your breathing while you breathe. Count 10 breaths and then relax.
The Bumble Bee Breath Sit upright with straight posture, place your tongue over the bottom mouth and make a buzzing noise as you brief through your nostrils.
Alternate Nostril Breathing Alternate breathing through nostrils by placing your thumb over one nostril and breathing through the other. Take deep breaths and rotate with each one. Repeat three times.
Source: Michelle. July 8th, 2011. “Yoga Breathing Exercises for Anxiety.” Healthfully. Yoga Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (healthfully.com)

This section will attempt to show, in describing Alexander’s Honours experience, the potential of a mindfulness that is both useful to your work and a break from it (at the end of the chapter, we provide website linkages and other resources for mindfulness practices). Mindfulness, we will argue, is the finest diagnostic tool you have for the type of self-care that will work for you.

Despite their apparent ideological differences – mindfulness being associated with yogis and time-management with Henry Ford and all – we suggest that mindfulness and time-management can be meaningfully intertwined. In fact, truly effective time-management will respond to mindfulness.

This vague term, “mindfulness,” has been used by health corporations like Mindful to refer to the practice of paying attention to “what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through” (Mindful). In other words, it aims to fend off desensitization, hyper-rationalization, and abstraction from that which is occurring most immediately. In research, this is especially important to remember, since we are often driven to research by abstract, macro-processes: the goal of getting an honours degree, of understanding and communicating how “Uber attained legitimacy amongst so and so people.” This means to coordinate our activity to some goal that is potentially years (or infinitely far) away from the present, tending to lead us to delegitimize our daily suffering in order to strive towards our abstract goals: ignoring our feelings of tedium, of loneliness, and even happiness.

Techniques of mindfulness seek to combat such belligerence to our own surroundings and feelings. They aim to rest from what we are coordinated towards (active stance) and acknowledge how we are affected (passive, listening stance) by this movement. When thinking of how we can coordinate everything towards research, every friend and feeling can become an obstacle towards your objective. Likewise, as will be discussed in the coding process (Chapter 8), any statement which does not immediately support your thesis or strengthen your project can become an enemy (and they are not!). But the mindfulness definition might still be too simplistic as Alexander explains:

The narrow-sightedness of research occasionally led me to being unreceptive. Especially as the year went on, I grew more reclusive, avoiding texts from friends, or when I did see them, struggling to relate to worries unrelated to Uber’s media campaign (who knew they could exist). My world was sometimes isolated by my seriousness; all that did not solve my problems was palaver. On the other hand, this narrow-sightedness towards my thesis inconsistently vacillated to equally narrow escapism. I occasionally tried to escape my problems by throwing myself into other distractions – reading books unrelated to Uber, going out with friends, chess videos on Youtube, ice cream, and so on – only to be snapped out of it by an honours seminar or one of the plentiful ads produced by Uber’s propaganda machine.

Box 4.6: Mayo’s Four Components of Mindfulness

Pay Attention
Live in the Moment
Accept Yourself
Focus on Your Breathing

Source: Mayo Clinic Staff. N.d. “Mindfulness Exercises.” Mayo Clinic. Mindfulness exercises – Mayo Clinic

Just as with the conditions which often lead to escapism, coming out of a long bout of escapism can mean panic. This is the kind of dangerous cycle that an insensitive schedule achieves. If we are only ‘time-managing’ towards some abstract objective, we end up (often ineffectively) torturing the free, feeling thing being managed. On the other extreme, if all time is whimsical mindfulness, we neglect the value of the future goals which our mind often seeks to interpret in our present experience – like finishing a thesis.

With this ying-yang (antinomy) in mind, we encourage you to consider mindfulness as a part of those abstract goals it purportedly seeks to quiet. Mindfulness techniques will perhaps, be most meaningful if you use it as both an opportunity to break from the goals of your thesis and be attentive to your most immediate surroundings, while still reflecting on the parts of your time management which are not harmonizing with your current state. By the latter we mean you should incorporate reflections of how you feel into your research schedule: by attempting to respond to your fears, hopes, energy and exhaustion through planning of breaks or work-periods. This likewise means to consider planning mindfulness as part of your research process. Take five minutes in the morning before work to simply breathe and reflect on your feelings that day: then, as a result of this reflection, incorporate your state into the type of activities you are working on. If you are exhausted, consider picking a simple rote task; if you have ample creative enthusiasm, skip the menial stuff and tackle your most complex questions.

Table 4.5 - Three Structured Mindfulness Exercises
Mindfulness Exercises Description
Body Scan Meditation Lie flat on your back with your arms and legs outstretched. Focus on each part of your body, beginning at your toes and then to your head. Think of your sensations, the tightness of your muscles, the movement of blood throughout your body, your temperature.
Sitting Meditation Sit with your back straight, feet on floor and hands in lap. Breath through your nose and think of how your breath moves through your body.
Walking Meditation Find any open outdoor space. Pace back and forth, paying close attention to your walking, the area around you, and allow your thoughts to flow freely. Develop a rhythm with your walking, and acclimatize to the pattern enough to let your thoughts wander.
Source: Mayo Clinic Staff. N.d. “Mindfulness Exercises.” Mayo Clinic. Mindfulness exercises - Mayo Clinic

There is no specific task that you have to run through in order to reflect on your senses and mental processes, while “Mindfulness” tasks will often involve a break from anything that could constitute a mental distraction (besides those tedious but necessary projects of breathing and pumping blood). As Alexander explains, basic, rote activities such as walking and showering can be good for the stillness required for reflection:

There were many moments in my thesis project where some type of mindfulness offered recovery. Often, when I was highly stressed about the quality of my thesis, I was immediately tempted to distract myself with tv, friends, food, my phone and fantasy. This only delayed the stress of my research. But when I took the time to do a simple breathing activity (count ten deep breaths) to calm myself before reflecting – I was better able to stave off the melodrama of my catastrophizing by placing it in respect to the real safety which currently surrounded me. In sitting back and thinking, I also was able to reflect on my hunger, the soreness of my lower back from hours of sitting, and the fact that my room smelt like an oven cooking sweat rags. I did not discard (and hence discredit) these feelings to the present. Rather, after resting and thinking, I made a sandwich, cracked open a window, and went for a walk.

We encourage you to consider a mindfulness which is not escapism. It can be, but it can also be incorporated, like your field notes, into reflections which enrich your activity. Try to set times, either to walk, run, or lay on your floor and reflect on what you are trying to accomplish and how you feel about those steps. Then write those reflections in your field notes and attempt to craft your schedule with respect to your needs. Use mindfulness as both a technique to widen your focus to important things unrelated to your research and a tool for connecting more effectively with your research by addressing your major worries, devising solutions, and then correctly evaluating their significance in the scope of your other goals.


Mindful Staff. (2020). What is mindfulness? MindfulWhat is Mindfulness? – Mindful

Mindfulness exercises – Mayo Clinic


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Practicing and Presenting Social Research Copyright © 2022 by Oral Robinson and Alexander Wilson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book