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  • Writer's pictureIntermountain Counseling

The Difference Between Mindfulness and Meditation

Man meditating outside.

Did you know that more than 31% of people in the United States will suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives? Stress and anxiety are two difficult things for anyone to deal with. They are also two very common problems that make it difficult to live a normal and enjoyable life.

Mindfulness and meditation can help. But which one is better? What is the difference between mindfulness vs. meditation?

Keep reading and learn more about these concepts and why they're important below.

Mindfulness Can Be Used as a Treatment Without Meditation

What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is becoming more of a prominent option in mental health treatment. It involves becoming aware of the present moment and of yourself.

Different types of mindfulness

This may not seem very substantial. Aren't people always aware of the present moment? Not necessarily.

Many people are thinking ahead and getting themselves stressed about the future. Consider what you think about on a daily basis. You most likely think a lot about what you will do later in the day or tomorrow.

You might wonder what you are going to eat for dinner later. You might think about getting gas for your car, picking up your kids from school, waking up early tomorrow, and so on. Thinking ahead is a big source of stress for many people.

This is because it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the different tasks you have to do shortly. This may cause you to miss many important pieces of information occurring in the present moment. Focusing too much on the past can also prevent this.

You may keep thinking about an event that happened to you recently. Or you may keep thinking about something that someone said. Overthinking can make you feel unstable and stressed.

If you are constantly bombarded by your thoughts, it may feel impossible to give yourself a break. But this is where mindfulness comes in. You might not know how to be mindful if someone doesn't teach you first.

Most therapists are in the habit of teaching mindfulness. This is because mindfulness can benefit the mind in a variety of ways. Learning to be present allows you to quiet your intrusive thoughts of the future or past.

You can instead focus on what is in front of you and around you.

The Details

Mindfulness may seem overly simple, but it is harder than you'd expect if you've never tried it before. A therapist can help guide you through the basic techniques of mindfulness.

Mindfulness can help with negative thoughts, stress, anxiety, and self-compassion. It can also help with concentration. Many people can't concentrate on the present moment or task because they are thinking about something else.

But mindfulness can help with that too. This may also help improve your relationships with other people. Being more present and paying more attention to the people in your life is more attainable with mindfulness.

You can practice mindfulness without meditation. While these concepts are similar, they are not conjoined. Mindfulness may be all you need to fix the problems in your life.

Mindfulness is sometimes combined with other types of therapy. Other types include talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and so on. Combining mindfulness with therapy is very effective.

You can practice mindfulness by paying more attention to your surroundings. Calming yourself and soaking in the details of your environment can help too.

Meditation Is a Practice Involving Several Techniques

Meditation is unique compared to mindfulness. This is because it requires more techniques and effort. It is not as flexible as mindfulness which can be practiced anywhere.

But meditation is still very important for soothing stress and anxiety. It is a very old practice that goes back thousands of years. Meditation is also unique in that it combines physical techniques with mental techniques.

This is different from mindfulness which only uses mental techniques. Many people think of meditation as sitting cross-legged with their hands on their knees. But this is only one type of meditation.

A man doing cross-legged meditation.

There are some very deep types of meditation. Some people describe these types as being like an altered state of consciousness. Meditation can also be combined with other techniques such as yoga.

The point of meditation is to clear your mind. This is also different from mindfulness which mainly centers on focusing on the present moment. The concept of meditation originated as a religious practice, but you don't have make it religious; read on to learn more.

Meditation requires you to be in a quiet room where you can be alone. Instead of focusing on your inner thoughts or the world around you, try focusing on a fixed point. Some people like to imagine that there is a spot on their forehead to focus on.

What You Need to Know

Other people may focus on a word to keep them grounded. Focusing on your body is also important. Consider how every portion of your body feels.

Concentrate on how the feelings in your body change. You can also focus on contemplation. This involves choosing a single question or statement to focus on for the duration of your meditation.

If you decide to contemplate, it is important to avoid letting your mind wander. You might start to have stressful thoughts again if your mind wanders too far. When focusing on a point in your mind, you can let the world around you fall away.

This allows you to enter a deep and relaxing state of concentration. Rest and relaxation are two very important concepts for meditation. It is also very good for your body.

Meditation can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure. It is also good for reducing stress and anxiety. But what should you do if you are too anxious to sit around and meditate?

You can incorporate a physical activity like yoga into your meditation. Physical activity can be your point of focus. This may make it easier for you to calm down and enter a deeper state of meditation.

Mindfulness Can Be Practiced Formally or Informally

Mindfulness is more flexible than meditation. This is because meditation usually needs to be practiced in a particular environment. It requires a quiet room where you can be by yourself.

You may also need to incorporate physical activity into your meditation to benefit from it. But you don't need all that with mindfulness. You can practice it formally or informally.

Informal mindfulness means that you can practice it anywhere and anytime. You can be mindful while sitting at your computer at work. You can be mindful while sipping on coffee in a cafe or taking a walk.

This allows you to maintain a state of calmness throughout the day. This is important and useful if you often suffer from stress or anxiety. You can also practice mindfulness formally by practicing it in a way similar to meditation.

You may allow yourself to be mindful once you have a calm and relaxed environment around you. Or you may practice mindfulness when visiting your therapist. The more you practice mindfulness, the easier it will become.

What to Know

You may find that you can only practice mindfulness formally for it to have any effect. But once you get used to the practice, you may practice it more informally. Both formal and informal mindfulness is important.

This practice can also help you with a variety of mental health issues. It is especially helpful for treating stress and anxiety. But it may also be a good treatment for depression and eating disorders.

These disorders are similar to anxiety in that they prevent you from living in the present moment. They instead compel you to think about other things that are unpleasant or stressful. Mindfulness can take your mind away from these stressful subjects and help you be calmer.

Mindfulness can also help improve your relationships. You can learn how to be more present and pay more attention to the people in your life. If you've never practiced mindfulness before, it is best to do so in the presence of a therapist.

A therapist can properly guide you through the process so you can benefit most from this practice.

All About Mindfulness vs. Meditation

When contemplating mindfulness vs. meditation, you might be wondering if one is better than the other. Both of these concepts are beneficial and good for different things. Mindfulness is best for focusing on the present moment.

Meditation is more intensive and better for contemplation and reflection. A therapist can help you with mindfulness to reduce your stress and anxiety. To learn more, check out our services.

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