Student and Registry Services


Mindfulness exercises you can do at your desk in under 5 minutes

15 May 2020

Stop, look around you and go

Slow down, look around you, taking in your surroundings fully and breathe slowly and deeply. Observe what you see and feel without any judgment or assessment of your experience. Once you’ve assessed your situation, try to become accepting of it. No one enjoys being in stressful situations and you may not be able to change them, however, we can change how we respond to what is happening. The last step is to let go. With distance and a little time away from what’s causing your stress, you give yourself the time and space to respond in a meaningful way and not on impulse.


Sit comfortably putting your feet on the ground, and if comfortable, lengthen your spine and bring awareness of your breath. Are you breathing shallowly or deep down into your diaphragm? Shallow breath could indicate you’re stressed whilst deepening your breaths begins to calm the nervous system. It’s good to have a longer exhalation so if you like to count, try breathing in for one and breathing out for 2. Do what feels comfortable but trying some focused breathing for a few minutes can really help to bring you back down to feeling calmer.

Clear that racing headspace

Find that your mind is racing with too many thoughts all at once? Here’s an exercise to increase clarity of mind. Sitting or standing with closed eyes, gently look at the thoughts in your mind, acknowledging and notice any uncomfortable feelings without trying to suppress them. Scan your body for any feelings of tightness and tension and acknowledge them whilst not trying to suppress them. Now focus your attention on your breath and then gradually the sensations in your body. If your mind wonders to thoughts of the future or the past, bring your attention back to your breathing.

Slow down during rest periods

When it comes to having a break or your lunch, try to slow down whilst doing so. Eating ‘al-desco’ or having a snack whilst still at your desk doesn’t count. Eating mindlessly and shoving some food down our throats in the fastest possible time isn’t conducive to enjoying the food, let alone for our digestive system. This can lead to gastric problems so try to actually taste the food, get away from the desk and give your eyes a much needed screen break.

Stop to listen

Working in busy offices and now possibly lively ‘working-from-home’ situations, we may not always listen to everything we hear in a bid to tune out the noise and focus on what we’re doing. During your rest breaks, try to practise really listening to what people are saying and really giving what you hear some thought. Listening consciously can really make a difference in your interactions with others whether that’s on a Microsoft Teams call or even just listening to the sounds of nature when you venture out into your garden or balcony whilst on your lunchbreak.

Read through the Remote, not Distant at UCL page for more information on tools to support you during this time.