Meditation vs. Mindfulness: What You Need To Know
07 Mar 2020
Many people use the terms mindfulness and meditation as synonyms, but they're not the same thing. Keep reading to learn the differences between the two words and how you can incorporate each into your daily life.
The words mindfulness and meditation seem to be everywhere these days and are often used interchangeably. Since they are frequently used in a similar context, it's no wonder you may be confused. Let's clear this up.
Meditation is an activity, and most commonly it refers to formal, seated practice. There are many different ways to meditate which you may have heard of, including breath-focused meditation, transcendental meditation (TM), loving-kindness meditation, mantra repetition, and guided visualizations to name a few.
Learning to meditate is like learning any other skill, and you may benefit from working with a teacher to help guide you. Meditation is most commonly done in a comfortable seated position, but you can also practice it laying down or while sitting on a train.
Meditation also usually involves an anchor or a place to place our attention and steady our distracted minds. This is often the breath but can also be any other sensory experience, which is especially useful when beginning your meditation practice.
I created my free 3 track meditation album to help you start your meditation practice, you can listen to it for free here and start meditating from anywhere.
One Minute Meditation
Try this simple one-minute stress relief meditation for beginners you can do anytime, anywhere.
- Wherever you are, take a deep breath.
- Settle into a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes or take a soft gaze in front of you.
- Breathe in for 4 counts through your nose.
- Hold your breath for 4 counts.
- Release your breath through your nose for 4 counts.
- Continue this cycle of breath for 1 minute.
This is a meditation that you can do pretty much anywhere, anytime to feel calmer and more peaceful in just 1 minute.
Mindfulness is a simple act of being present and fully aware of what's happening as it's happening. When you practice mindfulness, it allows you to connect to the world around you and become more aware of your own thoughts, feelings, internal dialogue, beliefs, and patterns.
Mindfulness can be infused into pretty much anything and can be practiced both formally (as in meditation) or informally, during any time or place you are aware of the present moment. A few informal ways to practice mindfulness include mindful eating, mindful communication, mindful walking, or any other activity where you are fully engaged in the here and now. There are likely practices where you are already applying informal mindfulness to each day, without even realizing it.
However, it's important to note that being mindful does not always come easily, as our minds are constantly thinking of the future or ruminating on the past. I fact, a Harvard study found that people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are doing. In order to build our capacity for mindfulness, it takes practice.
Here is a simple example of an informal mindfulness exercise you can practice:
Mindful Morning Exercise
Pick an activity that is part of your daily morning routine, such as brushing your teeth, making coffee, or taking a shower.
As you are doing the activity, totally focus on what you are doing. Notice the body movements, the taste, the touch, the smell, the sight, and the sound that is present as you complete the activity.
For example, when showering you may notice
- The sound of water as it sprays out of the nozzle
- The temperature of the water
- The sensation of the water on your hair and your shoulders
- The smell of the soap and shampoo
- The sight of the water droplets on the walls
The great thing about informal mindfulness is that you can practice it at any time. By applying mindfulness to a simple routine activity you would be doing anyway, you can increase your present moment awareness, and apply this to all areas of your life.
Final Thoughts on Mindfulness and Meditation
If meditation is a practice or training that leads to a healthy mindset, mindfulness is the skill that is built as a result. While the two concepts are intertwined, they aren't the same thing and it's helpful to know what you’re doing and why.