Mindfulness for work and study

One of the perfect uses for mindfulness is mastering your emotions. We will explore this concept in the home and office settings, where we learn and work with actionable tips.  For more reading, please check here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Stop emotions and focus

I use mindfulness when I need to work or read, but my attention is elsewhere. In this case, probably multitasking between the work and the emotions is not the best idea. Maybe the best idea would be to process the emotions and reach a resolution, but this may require tons of focus, energy and time which we probably do not have. So instead we want to shut down the emotions and focus on the work. Easier said than done. What are some cool alternatives:

  • Sensory overload. Skim through many articles as fast as you can and write down what you read. Probably you will not be able to focus on the first article but after 10 articles you will forget about your emotional issues. You will also forget about your work and will need some reorientation. Maybe a good idea at the morning when we arrive and after lunch.
  • Change of scenery. Go outdoors, walk or run for 10 min visualizing your work and what you can achieve doing it, then come back. Not always doable but usually very nice. A bonus idea: talk to the security guard in your lobby if there is one and if he is a nice guy.
  • Social support. Share your issue or unrelated anecdotes with a coworker, or allow a coworker to share his problems with you. This can probably be done once or twice a day for 10 min in the coffee room.
  • You can and should go through your mails and the relevant social media (WhatsApp), but this may cause more trouble and require an additional break.

OK, we are still left with at least 5 breaks of 5-10 min per day and no plans.  Let me suggest mindfulness.

Mindful without meditation

5 or 10 min is not necessarily enough for meditation, and the workplace is not the best setting for meditation. So, what can be done instead?

  • Mindful coffee and fruits or nuts. I guess it is a healthy alternative to tea and cookies. We focus on the preparation of fruit and beverage, on setting them in a nice way, on consumption and related smells and tastes, and on memories that are stirred by them. OK, that will eat up 5 min, quietly and refreshingly.
  • Office exercise. The office is not a gym, so too much exercise will be strange. We can do some breathing exercise and focus on the breath. Maybe we can do some isometric exercises, focusing on muscles and bones. [My father was always doing isometric exercises at work, and he still looks very athletic. Somehow I did not quite enjoy this format of sports. Maybe I should try again.] Eye gymnastics are a must, focusing inwards on sensations.
  • Go to the window and look as far as you can. Best to do this during sunrise or sunset, but rain, for example, is also very cool. Focus on the weather and how it makes you feel.
  • Music break. There are people who need some music simply to work. I am not one of them. When I listen to music I really engage with it. My musical tastes change all the time from symphonic metal to jazz standards. Currently, I am into progressive rock like Dream Theater or Rush. When I listen to music I am fully there with some minor visual synesthesia.
  • Voracious reading. Sometimes the best thing to do is to read something fascinating that has no other use. I am usually obsessed with a subject not related to anything else. You name it, I was probably obsessed about it or will be obsessed in the future. Fun reading, no productivity limitations. Focus on your curiosity and spontaneous associations.
  • Daydreaming. To qualify for mindfulness, you really need your visualization to be vivid.

Sensitive people

OK, so we have enough ideas for most of us for 12 breaks per day, maybe more.  If you are a sensitive person that will still not be enough: the emotions will surface faster than you will be able to deal with them. So instead of fighting the emotions, let go and focus on the emotions themselves.

Typically we visualize emotions in colors. Sometimes synesthesia involves poetry or musical tracks. Commonly body sensations are involved as pulse and gut feeling. The idea is focusing on the fine details of the emotions, and how these details change and pulsate. These changes of emotions will have a profound sensory manifestation which is fascinating. After admiring the emotions for 5 min, you will probably be ready to work.

This routine definitely works for me. If you are not sufficiently sensitive to your emotions, you will not able to feel them sufficiently vividly. Probably you will not need this routine, to begin with.

Creative solution

How about flexing your creative muscles? You may doodle, write down poems, or simply approach the issue from different perspectives. When we truly create we can get into the flow state, and lose track of time. So this is something more appropriate for the evening after completing most of the daily tasks.

The basic idea is capturing artistically the geist of the moment, or of the entire day. A gratitude journal will also work, but it might be too boring for most.

We bypass the analysis and blocks and mindfully visualize the deepest parts of our being at the moment. Do not do anything time-consuming. If you are doodling, use pencils and not oil paints. I often play with calligraphy in different scripts (English, Russian, Hebrew). No need to make a masterpiece or save the things we doodle.

Play with perspectives

Sometimes we become disoriented. If we are very tired, frustrated and defocused at the same time, more complex strategies simply will not work. We can try a very simple form of out-of-the-body experience. Imagine a place in the room, in the past or in the future, and imagine viewing yourself from that place. How would you feel viewing the person you are now from that position? Be the person you are now, then be the observer, then be the person you are now and shift the perspective again.

It is important to feel compassion to yourself from various positions and that compassion is the healing element of this exercise. You may also combine this with breathing exercises.

Mindful breathing


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