When we search mindfulness, meditation usually follows suit. And when we search for mediation, mindfulness shows up too. They must be the same concepts, right? Wrong. There are differences to explore between mindfulness vs. meditation, even though these words are sometimes used interchangeably.
Mindfulness is a practice that we carry with us wherever we go, whereas meditation is more of an exercise. Both work to help our well-being and live more in the present. And people do them for all sorts of reasons. One study found that people who practiced mindful meditation for four days boosted their attention span and working memory.
We’ll be able to join both concepts when we better understand them. So first, let’s learn more about what makes them unique, and what it takes to reap the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.
What is meditation?
Meditation is an exercise that helps with our self-awareness to clearly reflect and focus on our thoughts. It organizes the mind to prevent mental clutter so we can focus on our inner selves.
Our minds wander from time to time, but meditation helps reel in our thoughts and investigate how we feel and why we feel that way. It can also help us understand what kind of self-talk we practice, and how that negatively or positively impacts our lives.
Plenty of different types of meditation exist to choose from. There’s mantra meditation, guided meditation, and transcendental meditation. Meditation teachers help us strengthen our techniques in group settings or classes, or we can practice alone.
Whatever meditation practice we choose, we want to ensure that we have the opportunity to improve our self-knowledge and develop our growth mindset.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about activating our senses to tune into what’s happening with and around us. When we talk about what mindfulness means, we’re discussing a practice that allows us to live fully in the present moment. We’re actively aware of what’s happening around us and what we’re feeling. The previous or upcoming days ahead don’t matter when we focus on the present.
Mindfulness is important because it teaches us to be more compassionate with ourselves, become better at listening to ourselves, and in turn, bring both of these things to our relationships. Strengthening our emotional regulation skills gives us better insight into ourselves.
We learn how to listen to what our emotions and bodies tell us, whether we need to take a break for a snack or calm ourselves down with a five-minute meditation.
Where does mindfulness come from?
Knowing where mindfulness comes from is difficult to pinpoint. Mindfulness derives from traditional practices of Eastern religious and spiritual institutions, like Buddhism and Hinduism. But elements of this practice are found in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Now, it’s a secular practice across the globe that anyone can benefit from.
4 key differences between mindfulness and meditation
While these two terms have their similarities, we should cover what separates them. Mindfulness requires us to be aware of what’s around us and how our bodies feel. Meditation is a practice that reels in our thoughts to calm the mind.
These two terms are similar because they both aim to help our well-being, but while one encourages awareness, the other works to create singular thoughts.
To discuss what the difference is between mindfulness and meditation, let’s consider the benefits and practices they require. Here are four differences:
- Mindfulness is a quality that we carry with us, but meditation is a specific practice that we intentionally incorporate into our everyday lives.
- Mindfulness practices can be done anywhere, whereas meditation often needs a particular environment.
- Meditation is a more formal practice than mindfulness.
- Meditation isn’t required in some treatments that mindfulness uses, like Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
5 key similarities between mindfulness and meditation
Our search results might point toward some similarities between mindfulness and meditation. Both offer and demand skills that support your well-being, and that’s what matters.
Here are five similarities between mindfulness and meditation:
- Both work to hold us accountable and responsible for our thoughts
- Both demand us to sharpen our focus and concentration skills
- Both work to help us find inner peace and relax our bodies
- Both improve our self-awareness and self-knowledge
- Neither requires a set amount of time we must practice them each day
Holding yourself accountable is no simple task. At BetterUp, our coaches are here to guide you toward finding inner peace and strengthening your self-awareness.
11 examples of mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness and meditation look different for everyone. But what’s important is that we find the right techniques, spaces, or people to help us with our mindfulness and meditation.
For some inspiration, here are some examples of mindfulness and meditation:
Examples of mindfulness
- Breathing exercises that help us slow down our minds and bodies to focus on ourselves
- Going for a walk outdoors for some fresh air to notice how we feel as our bodies move
- Gardening and taking care of plants, either outside or inside
- Taking our time when we eat food to notice how things taste and feel as we chew
- Single-tasking, which focuses all your attention on one task at a time
Examples of meditation
- Loving-kindness meditation helps to strengthen our compassion and love toward ourselves and others
- Visualization meditation, where we concentrate on an image to think about how it makes us feel calm
- Transcendental meditation may require a meditation teacher for help and involves repeating mantras
- Candle meditation, where we focus our senses on the flickering of a lit candle
- Sound bath meditation, using instruments for sound to focus on and vibrations to feel
- Doing a body scan, which includes our minds, to be more aware of what we’re feeling in the present moment
5 health benefits of practicing both
Practicing mindfulness and meditation offers more health benefits than just finding inner peace. These benefits of meditation and mindfulness range from physical health to mental health. After all, mindfulness and meditation require more than thinking about something intently. The benefits we can enjoy through sustained effort can change our health for the future.
Read over these five health benefits when you practice both mindfulness and meditation:
- Helps with reducing stress: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was first introduced by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed a way to use mindfulness and meditation in tandem for stress relief. It helps reduce acute and chronic stress and incorporates MBSR techniques like yoga.
- Develops a thicker cortex: Studies have shown that consistent meditation can grow the cortex area of your brain. This is important for our senses and attention. A stronger cortex can then help us develop other professional or personal skills.
- Helps our emotional regulation skills: Emotional regulation is challenging, but research has shown that mindfulness helps to facilitate our emotional regulation skills and how we can improve our mood. This can be beneficial for our mental health and our relationships.
- Reduces blood pressure: Research has proven that meditation is a way to reduce blood pressure and prevent people from developing high blood pressure. It also helps manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and deal with flare-ups or related symptoms.
- Helps treat anxiety: Our thoughts can be overwhelming when we’re anxious. Studies have suggested that mindfulness-based therapy is a way to treat anxiety because it allows us to slow down, be in the present moment, and learn to focus our thoughts on more positive emotions.
Your next move: How to merge the two practices
The discussion we’ve had on mindfulness vs. meditation should leave you with the impression that it’s about finding inner peace and so much more.
Mindfulness and meditation can be included in anyone’s daily life, regardless of how busy people are. It’s always worth carving out time to understand our thoughts and emotions deeply.
Plus, who says we have to choose either mindfulness or meditation when we can practice both simultaneously? They share similarities for a reason. Merging these two practices only amplifies their effectiveness.
The skills we learn for one practice can benefit the other, and vice versa. We can do this by being patient with our techniques and finding ones that complement each other.
And don’t forget to go with the flow. Even if things feel different each time you practice, it’s all a learning experience.
If you’re unsure how to merge the two, don’t worry. Mentors, sponsors, meditation teachers, and friends who’ve done it before can help.
Working mindfulness and meditation into your routine might take some effort. BetterUp can help you learn how to be mindful of your actions and develop a positive mindset.