10 mindful practices to introduce into your academic writing
Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Something has happened…I've published in Nature!!!!
For the first time. Ever. Not the kind of paper you may imagine…something about microbes, plants, insects….my research topics. Nope. It is a column in the career section, about meditation and mindfulness! Which at this moment in my life, it makes it even more interesting ;)
Why is that? It’s because I sincerely think that practicing meditation, can help you be more productive, more creative, and happier in your academic life. And getting more specific, it can help you with your scientific writing: papers, grants, projects, you name it! But having a meditation routine that you practice consistently is not easy. And to help you with that, I have a "meditation box" you can download here.
If you have ever tried meditating, this may sound familiar…you are going through a stressful period, maybe you are not sleeping well, so you start with some of the meditation apps out there. And after doing it for 10 minutes every day, you feel it is working! A couple of weeks later, you feel much better, so you gradually stop meditating. And a few weeks later you feel stressed again. That was me. Totally.
So in that column in Nature (let me just say it again please ;)), you can read some simple tips that have made that I now meditate every day, sometimes briefly and some days longer, but consistently. And that’s the key!
In this post what I wanted is to tell you a bit more about the mindful practices I do, so you may be inspired to try a new style, or to start meditating from scratch! And as usual, I have prepared a special package for you, where you’ll find some audios, with a pdf guide with links to all these examples and a brief diagram to choose your style ;) Let’s have a look:
1. Mindful walk
I love this one. Because on top of meditating, and moving your body, you’ll also get the benefits of being outdoors, which are many. I find it especially useful to boost your creativity, to get out of a block, or to clear your mind before starting a new and perhaps difficult project. You just simply focus your attention on colors, smells, sounds, or the movement of your body.
2. Dancing meditation
Dancing is part of being human…we have danced since prehistoric times. Dancing not only makes you feel good from the endorphins, but it also improves problem-solving skills (great to write those scientific papers!). Unfortunately, you may be too ashamed of dancing in your open space office…but it is perfect when you are working from home. To do it mindfully, focus on your breath, the music, and your movement.
3. Yoga asana
This is the Yoga class that the western world knows well, where different poses are done in sequences. These poses are called Asana, and it is only 1 out of the 8 parts (known as limbs) of Yoga. The objective of the asana is to calm your body to get into a deeper meditation. The key to getting in a mindful state during Yoga is to focus your attention on matching body movement with your breath.
4. Guided visualizations
In guided meditations, you listen to a voice that indicates you what to do, which may be easier for many of us! During visualizations, you are guided through the description of a scene with enough details for you to imagine it. The body scan is a classic (I have one for you in the box!), where you go through different parts of your body, visualizing those parts, but also paying attention to how they feel. If you have problems with visuals, then visualizations that focus on describing smells, sounds, or sensations can be equally effective. The best of it? It is also a powerful technique to promote creativity!
5. Guided meditations on a topic
You can practice this type when you need some motivation or support. If you have a meditation app (I always recommend Insight Timer) you can often filter by topics, for example: “focus”, “self-love”, “compassion”, “forgiveness”, “fear”… What you get is a guided meditation, combined with wise words around that topic that often will uplift your mood. Meditation practices are very personal…we all have different tastes! But especially in this one, I recommend you to spend some time finding a teacher that you like in terms of style and voice.
6. Yoga Nidra
This type of meditation is also called Yogi sleep. The reason is that when you practice Yoga Nidra your mind is in a state between the conscious and unconscious, basically, semi-sleeping. Rumors say 1 h of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to 10 hours of sleep. I couldn’t find any evidence of that, but it is definitely restoring. You generally practice it lying down, and in the guide, I have prepared for you, you’ll find the link to my favorite one. If you have insomnia, wake up too early, or you’d love a nap but you are like me and sleep for two hours, try Yoga Nidra!
7. Deep breathing
Controlled breathing is a key component of Yoga and a meditation practice (known as Pranayama). When you breathe slowly and deeply, expanding the chest and the lower abdomen, you are stimulating your vagal nerve. This stimulation has been shown to calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system. If you have never experienced how powerful deep breathing can be, just try it now! And that’s exactly one of the benefits of breathing exercises: you can do it anywhere you are!
8. Box breathing
This breathing exercise (called "Same Vritti Pranayama") consists of imagining a square or a box, and each side is one breathing action, all for the same time: inhale -hold your breath-exhale-hold your breath. I recommend to try 5 seconds each side, but you may adjust the time. And repeat this for 3 or more rounds. Box-breathing is highly effective, and a technique that is used by many therapists. In
Singing is like dancing, something we have done since the origins of humankind. If you are in a choir or practice any type of singing, you are probably familiar with the mental benefits of it. I am a terrible singer. Terrible. But chanting on my own brings me instant calm! You can try a simple mantra, inhale deeply, and in the exhale sing “AUM” (or “OM”). Although simple, in Hinduism "OM" is the most sacred syllable which multiple spiritual meanings.
10. Positive affirmations
These are short sentences that you can repeat over and over like a mantra while matching the sentence with your breath. While they don’t work per se, when you use affirmations about something that you know you can do, they can help with those limiting beliefs that are stopping you. Examples of limiting beliefs? When you sit to write, words don’t come, and a voice in your head starts saying things like “you are a terrible writer”, or “your supervisor will laugh about this manuscript”…Is that familiar? Guess who hears those voices too ;) Instead, repeat positive sentences that are true, for example, “I can do this”, or “Done is better than perfect”.
These are only 10 examples of mindful practices you can introduce during the day, and especially if you want a more mindful scientific writing. To further establish a daily routine, you can go and have a look at this column. And as a special present, I have for you a “meditation box", with several audios and a guide to help you choose your meditation type and links to these 10 types so you can start practicing straight away. And I’d love to hear how it goes!
Note: Although strictly is not the same, for the purpose of this article, and of everything I do here in I focus and write, I use the words mindful practices and meditation as synonyms.