Mindfulness Versus Meditation
Updated: Jun 2
The whole zen things seems to be vastly popular these days however just because wellness has officially reached the masses it does not make it any less confusing. Many people hold the belief that Mindfulness and Meditation are the same. Mindfulness and meditation embody many similarities and can overlap, but they are not exactly interchangeable. It is important for us to firstly understand some of the differences. In essence, Mindfulness is the awareness of something while meditation is the awareness of nothing. The history of meditation and mindfulness is ancient and spiritual. Both have originated in religion mainly in India and China. The practice of meditation predates the idea of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is all about being aware. When you are being mindful, you are noticing and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, behaviours and movements. With mindfulness you can practice at anytime, with anyone and anywhere. It is about being present in whatever you’re doing, you are actively involved in the activity you’re doing with all of your senses instead of allowing your mind to wander. Meditation is usually different in that it is practiced for a certain amount of time in a seated position.
A recent Harvard study found that people spend 46.9% of their waking hours thinking of something other than what they are actually doing. This result is not surprising as our minds spend time focused on the past (regrets), future (worry) and testing out or theorising over the should have’s and what if’s. Another recent study has found that people who practice mindfulness had healthier glucose levels, which suggested that improved focus and self-control could help fight obesity and unhealthy eating. Mindfulness has also been linked to improved sleep quality and lowered anxiety and depression levels.
Meditation on the other hand is an activity, it’s a thing you do which typically refers to a more formal, seated meditation practice. In essence meditation is when you intentionally set aside time to do something good for yourself. There are a number of different types of meditation including mantra-based meditation, guided meditation, breath-awareness meditation and more importantly for this discussion of course is Mindfulness meditation. Yes, it can be argued that Mindfulness is just another type of meditation.
Meditation is an intentional practice. Whilst practising meditation you are normally looking to spend anything from a minute to an hour or more in which you focus inward to perhaps increase calmness, emotional balance and concentration.
I hope we have cleared up some confusion? I have written a couple of great introductory exercises for beginners to practicing mindfulness below.
For this exercise all you need is to get comfortable, lie down on your bed, sofa or sit up in a chair. Place a hand on your belly and watch as you breathe in how your belly expands. This exercise promotes deep breathing, which helps get oxygen into the body. More oxygen helps us to relax our bodies and think clearly. Try this for 1 minute and build up the time at your own pace.
Compassion for Others
Think of a person who has offended you or others through their behaviour. Try and imagine what factors could have led to this person to behave in this way that hurt others. If this is difficult, try and imagine this individual as a child or a baby with innocence. Send this person thoughts of compassion and wish them well in this world. Keep repeating this in your head for 1 minute. Does sending your thoughts of compassion feel different to holding onto painful feelings about this person?
This is called the raisin exercise but, in all honesty, it can be tried by anyone with any type of food. It helps if the piece of food is interesting with an unusual texture, taste or smell if possible.
I would like you to take a few raisins and pretend you have never seen a raisin before. Please stay with me on this.
Pay very careful attention to the following: -
· The way the raisin looks
· How it feels
· How the skin bends and changes for
· How they smell
· How they taste
The purpose of this exercise is to bring your attention on the single object (which is of course the raisin in this example) bringing your mind to the present moment on what is directly in front of you. If your mind wanders then this is completely normal but gently guide your mind back to the exercise. Ry this in the comfort of your own home for a few minutes to start with and see how you feel after. Don’t expect this to be easy at first but with practice you will definitely feel the benefits.