GET STARTED: Mindfulness Meditation for Writing Your Thesis or Dissertation

Ten years ago, I found myself sitting in a small room with my dissertation chair and five classmates, each of us practically squirming in our plastic seats with anticipation and anxiety. 

It was our very first meeting, and it was time for us to go around the room and tell everyone about our intended dissertation topics. One by one we took the plunge, until each of us had shared and given feedback on our respective ideas. 

Fortunately, my chair and everyone in my dissertation cluster was super supportive of one another, but by the end of that meeting, all our nerves were fried, and it was clear that one question weighed on all our minds:

This is an e-nor-mous project. How on earth am I going to write this thing? 

Looking back on the experience, I will say that that emotionally, it was a tough, TOUGH process. There was so much ongoing pressure, anticipation, worrying – and the entire project from start to finish took just under three years.  

If you are currently working on a thesis or dissertation, trust me when I say: I feel your pain! This is huge and cumbersome project, and the long-term stress impacts everyone differently. Some procrastinate – I have met people who have taken a decade to finish their thesis/dissertation. Someone else I know became so distressed during the process that their doctor recommended they take antidepressants. 

During my own dissertation writing process, I relied a lot on the support of friends and family. I was fortunate to have a fantastic dissertation chair and encouraging peers – that was a huge benefit. 

But I really wished I had had a tool specifically tailored to all the thoughts and feelings that were influencing my emotional state in relation to this type of project, particularly related to all the work I knew I had to do, and the many fears I had about getting started. 

Writing a thesis or dissertation is a marathon, not a sprint. In last week’s post, I explained the concept of mindfulness and talked about the power it has to help us show up and be fully present in our lives. Who wouldn’t want to feel more focused, more present, more alert, more grounded…instead of worrying, angsting, rushing from beginning to end? Doing a brief mindfulness meditation before you sit down to write, research, read, or take notes can change the way you show up and move through the writing process. 

That is why I’ve created a FREE guided mindfulness meditation for you that is specifically geared towards helping you start working on your dissertation or thesis. This eight minute mindfulness meditation can help to slow you down, get grounded, and have you showing up with presence and intention for the work you need to get started on today. And It’s 100 percent free!

So how did everything turn out?

I finished my dissertation (and degree) on schedule, all while juggling a full course load, two part-time traineeships followed by a full time internship, tons of additional papers, clinical notes, presentations and assignments, and a personal life. 

If you’re reading this, I know you’re going through a challenging time in your life. I also believe that no matter how overwhelmed or discouraged you may feel right now, you can finish your thesis/dissertation! 

Because I want you to succeed, this free guided meditation is set up to kick off a two-part blog series in which I’ll share the top writing and motivation strategies that helped me finish my own 165-page dissertation on schedule. All of this information will be on my blog in the coming weeks, so be sure to subscribe to get notification emails to hear ALL of my tips and strategies. Let’s get you to the finish line!

Click HERE to get your free guided meditation!

Happy meditating!

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This site is for informational purposes only. It isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any mental health problems and is not intended as psychological advice.
© 2022 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.

Shut Up & Dance: Lessons on Mindfulness from a Pop Song


Photo credit:Dancing in the Street 4” by Petr Dosek is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As a psychologist and pop culture lover, I love it when a piece of pop culture – say, a popular song – allows me to explain a psychological concept.

The song Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon is a song that most of us are familiar with, since it was released over the radio waves in 2014.

The first time I heard Shut Up and Dance, I thought it was about a person getting bossed around on the dance floor by his partner. After a few more listens, I realized: this is actually a song about a person who lacks mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a concept that’s pretty huge in the psychology world today. But a lot of people have misconceptions about it.

Before I dive into the song and discuss how it illustrates the power of mindfulness, I will give a few examples of what mindfulness is not:

Mindfulness is not…

  • telling yourself things are fine when they’re not (like that ever works!)
  • getting rid of your thoughts
  • getting rid of your feelings
  • zoning out
  • relaxation training

What is mindfulness? In a nutshell, mindfulness is the practice of being fully present with whatever is happening right now, with gentleness, compassion and non-judgment. It’s about noticing and observing (note that I didn’t say “liking” or “approving of”) whatever is happening, as it is occurring.

Now, if you don’t know the song I’m talking about, you can have a listen right here. But you don’t have to listen to the song, because I’m going to post some of the lyrics below.

So why do I say Shut Up and Dance is a song about mindfulness?

It’s told from the point of view of a man who’s dancing with a woman he’s really drawn to, but instead of enjoying the dance, he’s wondering things like “Where is this relationship going?” “Is this the person I’m meant to be with for the rest of my life?” “Is she being completely vulnerable and honest with me?”:

“Oh don’t you dare look back.
Just keep your eyes on me.”
I said, “You’re holding back, “
She said, “Shut up and dance with me!”
This woman is my destiny
She said, “Ooh-ooh-hoo,
Shut up and dance with me.”

The woman, as illustrated in the lyrics above, is the much more mindful of the two: she’s focused on the moment, on enjoying the dance as it unfolds, and she’s trying to pull her partner into the present moment, literally by telling him to shut up and dance with her.

Unfortunately, her partner can’t stop thinking about their dance in “big picture” terms, telling himself the “story” of their relationship and the significant role this dance played in its inception as if it’s already happened:

We were victims of the night,
The chemical, physical, kryptonite
Helpless to the bass and the fading light
Oh, we were bound to get together,
Bound to get together.

He’s looking backwards, he’s looking forwards, but he’s not focusing on the one thing he needs to be focusing on, which is the present moment. This is what his dance partner wants and needs from him.

So how can we apply the message of Shut Up and Dance to our own lives? Well, if you’re human, you will no doubt be able to relate the the struggle of staying in the present moment. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in our thoughts about the future, past or anything.

It helps to first recognize that mindfulness is a practice, and that it that takes practice. In fact, many people adapt a “mindfulness practice” that extends throughout the course of their entire lives. This practice may or may not include mindfulness meditation.

My experiences, both personal and professional, have led me to believe that cultivating and practicing mindfulness can be a life-changing force in a person’s life. Whether mindfulness helps us stay present for moments of joy, or moments of pain, it is a powerful tool that can help us manage whatever we’re facing.

As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So why not take a small step by practicing a brief mindfulness meditation today? Here’s one I created called Eight Minutes to Calm.

To mindful living! – Dr. Gina Davis

Website Privacy Policy I Website Terms & Conditions I Website Disclaimer
This site is for informational purposes only. It isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any mental health problems and is not intended as psychological advice.
© 2022 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.