I love the feeling of having a clear mind. Mediation and mindfulness are the best practices to help you clear your mind and be more aware. But is mindfulness just meditation or are there distinct differences between them?
Although meditation and mindfulness are closely linked they are not the same. Meditation is when you make a conscious effort to reset your mind. Mindfulness is about being more aware, paying attention and noticing everything you are doing. Mindfulness can happen at any time while meditation is the formal practice of finding peace within.
So while meditation and mindfulness are similar and aspects of the practice overlap they are also quite different. Understanding their differences will help you find ways to incorporate them into your daily life and enjoy the benefits of having a healthy mind.
Main Differences between Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditating offers you the the opportunity to acknowledge your mind and to have better control of your thoughts. You can even reach a heightened level of consciousness through techniques and commitment to practice over a period of years.
Mindfulness offers you the opportunity to practice mediation constantly by focusing on being in the present. The goal is to experience life with a beginner’s mind and viewpoint.
To further understand the difference between meditation and mindfulness, look at where the concepts originate from. Meditation is affiliated with Buddhism and Yoga, developed from an ancient belief based on withdrawal from the world.
Mindfulness is far more modern with strong links to psychology, scientific research and therapy. It revolves around everyday thought and looks to integrate into your complex life. Consequently as sit down formal practice meditation and mindfulness are identical. However beyond the formal practice, mindfulness has far more potential.
Meditation and Mindfulness in Action
The goal of meditation and mindfulness is the same; to develop a deeper awareness. The awareness you are looking to cultivate through meditation is an inner peace. This peace is achieved when mental noise is reduced. There are many different types of meditation activities you can choose where you focus on reducing the noise.
Mindfulness is more about paying attention, noticing, not judging, not thinking. It's applying the meditation mindset to more aspects of your everyday life. While meditation requires you to set time aside you can become more mindful in any daily activity.
Daily Mindfulness Practices
Incorporating mindfulness into your daily practices is a great way to develop deeper awareness and calm your mind. You want to develop a daily habit of cultivating a focused awareness on the present moment. When doing your daily activities, you can pause to practice mindfulness for a few minutes. They can help your days be better, more rewarding and more engaged.
When you wake up rather than automatically grabbing your phone, pause. Seat up on your bed and take three long, deep, nourishing breaths. Then set an intention for the day. Don’t set a goal but think about how you want to interact with others. How you can be more connected or how you can take better care of yourself and others.
Mindfulness and food
Another daily mindfulness activity is trying to enjoy every mouthful of the food you eat. Your life is probably quite busy and sometimes just finding the time to eat is a struggle! By not noticing what you are eating you are missing out on one of the most pleasurable experiences you can do as a human being.
Mindfully eating requires you to breathe before eating, setting the intention to focus on the task ahead. Listen to your body and ask yourself “How hungry am I?” Based on the answer, choose and eat food according to that hunger. You are now mindfully choosing what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat.
When eating your meal, bite, chew and swallow mindfully, experience the flavours, smells, taste and textures.
Your daily life will involve a little or a lot of physical activities. Walking, running or riding a bike to work, working out at the gym or going for a swim can all be opportunities for you to practice mindfulness. Use them to synchronise your body mind and nervous system.
State your aim for the activity by bringing purpose to the activity. Focus on the physical elements of the practice and pay attention to how they make you feel. As you move through the phases of the activity, match the rhythm of your breath to your movements. When you increase intensity, focus on your breathing to find your groove.
This will help when you challenge yourself. Whether that’s by going faster, doing more repetitions or lifting heavier weights. As you cool down and rest, notice how your body feels and the sensations flowing in and around you.
Overcoming Challenges with Mindfulness
You should practice mindfulness in daily situations which are quite challenging. An example is when you are driving, where a lack of awareness can be costly. You may be getting frustrated being stuck in slow moving traffic. Furthermore you may have had an unpleasant encounter with another motorist.
These are both great opportunities to practice mindfulness. Start by taking a deep breath which will send extra oxygen to your body. This will reduce any increased stress reaction in your body. Next ask yourself what you need and then give yourself what you need. This will bring you balance, allowing you to scan your body for tension.
Use some self-compassion phrases like “Acceptance is the key to everything.” Then recognise the situation and emphasise with the other drivers who want the same thing as you. Through this process in a short time you can turnaround this challenging situation.
Mindfulness Health Benefits for Adults
The benefits of meditation and mindfulness are abundant and many practitioners like to combine them. Formal mindful meditation can be classified as Clear Mind meditation.
In seated meditation you pay attention to the natural rhythm of your breath and slow walking. You may find that this simple technique is very effective at raising awareness and quieting the minds chatter. When you are being mindful in your day to day life you show more kindness, openness and tenderness to yourself.
Mindfulness also has health benefits through the release of happy chemicals into the brain. These can help to improve the digestion process, lower blood pressure and can even help in managing pain.
A recent study found that mindfulness when eating encourages healthy eating habits. It also lessens the chance of obesity and other food related illnesses. Further research on mindfulness meditation shows a link in improved sleep among older adults.
There has also been studies looking at the impact of mindfulness in helping cancer patients. While the practice doesn’t take away the symptoms, there is evidence that mindfulness can help in the management of the symptoms.
Reducing stress is another area where living mindfully is beneficial. It will stop you from reacting habitually when your buttons are pushed. You are more likely to process situations with more thought and clarity. You are also less likely to take things personally when you are more open to others need and wants.
These techniques also help in lowering anxiety and depression levels. The impact of mindfulness on stress can also be seen in several specific groups, including:
Mindfulness Health Benefits for Young People
Many of the participants of mindfulness studies have been college students. This is because they are accessible and have more spare time. Medical and psychology students showed positive improvements in a number of areas. These included affect tolerance, improved patience and self-acceptance.
Students experiencing alcohol problems may want to consider mindfulness as an effective tool to address related issues. An interesting study found that students practising mindfulness were engaged in lower rates of problematic drinking.
Improving academic success is another area where mindfulness can help students. The benefits are especially evident in children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds where decreased levels of stress were reported.