Many people use the words meditation and mindfulness interchangeably. While the words have many similarities, ultimately, they’re both different things. You can meditate mindfully and practice mindfulness through meditation. However, if you take a quick look at the definitions below, you’ll find that they’re both different things. In this article, we’ll examine the difference and similarities between meditation vs mindfulness, to help you better understand which type of meditation or mindfulness you’re actually practicing. But first, let’s dig into some definitions.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice in which people focus on their breath. As people focus on their breath, it’s normal for their mind to wander. Meditation reminds you to refocus your wandering mind back on the breathing exercise.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being aware of your thoughts and actions in the real world. While a meditator might practice a guided meditation for mindfulness in a studio or at home or work, a mindful person practices mindfulness in all areas of their lives.
Mindfulness can be practiced throughout the day. For example, while you’re practicing mindful eating at lunch, you might notice the texture of the food, the unique flavors, and crunchiness levels just by chewing slowly and becoming aware of the tastes. Most people gulf food down so quickly they don’t realize how much they like or don’t like the meal. Practicing mindful walking, or practicing mindfulness in conversations with others is all about emotional control within the mind and our actions.
What’s the difference between meditation and mindfulness?
1. Meditation is one type of mindfulness
When looking at the difference between meditation vs mindfulness, meditation is one of many types of mindfulness. Mindfulness includes activities, such as journalling, breathing exercises, meditation, body scans, mindful eating and walking, and more. There are so many ways to practice mindful living. While you can practice meditation mindfully, the two are not the same thing. However, they are connected. The overlap is that you can practice meditation with a sense of mindfulness. In both cases, you become aware of your thoughts and behavior. Meditation is more about the control of thoughts within your mind, whereas mindfulness is living those values in the outside world. Our thoughts affect our emotions which in turn affect our actions. When you meditate, you become aware of the thoughts before they start affecting other areas of your life. However, with mindfulness, living mindfully requires you to be compassionate with others in the real-world outside your head.
2. Meditation is a practice whereas mindfulness is a way of life
There’s a big difference to notice when analyzing meditation vs mindfulness. Meditation is a practice that helps you live more mindfully because it helps you notice your thoughts, sensations in your body, and more. However, mindfulness is a way to live your life. Meditation is kind of like a practice before the real event. In your practice, it’s easy to notice your thoughts because that’s all you’re paying attention to. However, when a friend says something hurtful to you, it’s easy to explode in a fit of a rage when you’re not regularly practicing meditation. Living mindfully is all about being aware of how we act and behave in all situations, including difficult situations. You can do mindful group activities to get in the habit of practicing mindfulness in your everyday life while also practicing guided meditations.
3. Mindfulness is more casual than meditation
Meditation is often done in a sitting position. We’ll sit on a meditation cushion, alone or in a group, and practice watching our thoughts float in and around our mind. We may focus on our breath with a high level of concentration. Or we may shift our attention to different areas of our body to find the pain or a sensation. There’s a lot of concentration and focus that goes into meditation. Since mindfulness is a way of living, training yourself to become more mindful eventually becomes how you live. You’ll be present in conversations and experiences because your thoughts aren’t your area of focus.
4. Mindfulness is only one component of meditation
Comparing meditation vs mindfulness, the difference is that just as meditation is a type of mindfulness, mindfulness is one of the components of meditation. Other elements of meditation include, a focused attention that comes with concentrating on your breath or thoughts, the effort that goes into breathing mindfully, the thought process which may entail thinking about giving love to someone in your life in a loving-kindness meditation, and a dedication to practicing meditation regularly. There are elements of awareness, non-judgment, and inner peace that go into your meditation practice.
5. Mindfulness affects all areas of your life
When comparing meditation vs mindfulness, meditation is a short ten to sixty minutes spent per day whereas mindfulness affects all areas of your life. While you might go to a meditation retreat for a week to practice meditation, the reality is it typically isn’t that time consuming. Mindfulness plays a role in your daily life. You can practice mindfulness while eating lunch, when in bed hurt with emotional pain, during walks in nature, and while chatting with friends, family members, or coworkers about difficult situations. Mindfulness is all about being compassionate, kind, and present in all those situations. Being aware of how you’re thinking and feeling will play a major role in your life. When you have negative thoughts, it’s likely that you’ll act poorly and possibly even hatefully. Having happy thoughts, you’ll be considerate of how the other person may feel. If you have ruminating thoughts, you may make the situation worse. If you’re unaware of the type of thoughts you have, it’ll still show through whether the action you took was loving or hateful.
6. You could live mindfully without being able to meditate
When examining meditation vs mindfulness, it’s possible to be mindful without meditating though it’s unlikely that you can meditate without being mindful. For example, those who do a good deed every day will likely live more mindfully. By thinking about ways to be kinder, and putting your energy on acts of kindness, or even looking for opportunities to be helpful and compassionate to another person, you can live mindfully. Thinking about positive actions will typically help you act in a positive manner as well. You don’t need to meditate to live mindfully. However, meditation can still be helpful for mindful living as it’s also about noticing your thoughts and becoming more aware of your actions. So, it’s still one of the many paths towards mindfulness.
7. Differences in practice
There are different ways to practice meditation vs mindfulness. For example, a person who meditates can choose from numerous types of meditation, such as body scan, loving-kindness, visualization meditation, and mindfulness meditation. However, in terms of mindfulness you might practice it by becoming present in conversations, listening attentively to others, being kind to people who are struggling, and becoming aware of things happening in your life. While the practices of meditation vs mindfulness are different, there is overlap in the need for being present. In both meditation and mindfulness, living in the moment is a crucial component.
8. Mindfulness is about thought watching but meditation is about letting go of thoughts
Another big difference to look at when comparing meditation vs mindfulness is their connection to thoughts. Mindfulness is all about watching your thoughts float in and out of your mind without your effort. You eventually realize you are not your thoughts. You don’t need to identify or relate to your thoughts. Just noticing the quality of the thoughts entering and exiting your mind is enough. When you become aware of the fact that your thoughts enter without you doing anything, it becomes clear that the thoughts don’t come from you. Meditation is all about letting go of thoughts. Don’t attach yourself to the thoughts that enter your mind. Instead, letting go of your thoughts so that there is no self is the way of meditation.
9. Mindfulness is self-guided, whereas meditation can be guided
Both meditation vs mindfulness can be self-guided. However, mindfulness is always self-guided as it’s your awareness of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. However, meditation can be guided. You can learn a lot by following a guide during a meditation practice. Declutter The Mind has countless guided meditations where a practitioner guides you along the journey of noticing your thoughts and letting them go. If you attend a silent retreat, you might notice a guide helping you with meditations. Alternatively, if you visit a meditation center, it’s often a guide, whether they use speech, singing bowls, or chants. If you plan to self-guide yourself during a meditation practice, you can use a meditation timer to guide you.
10. Meditation is for the mind and mindfulness is for our outer expression
The comparison of meditation vs mindfulness takes place in different areas. For example, meditation is all about the mind but mindfulness is more about your behavior. While meditation helps clean up the clutter in your mind, living mindfully is about acting with good intentions and trying to be a good person. When you live mindfully, your thoughts are positive, your emotions are under control, and your actions are positive too. Meditation can help make sure you have a calm mind, so that you can live more mindfully in the world. The two are interconnected in a lot of ways and complement each other to create a lifestyle worth living.
What are the similarities between meditation vs mindfulness?
1. Both improve mental health
Both meditation and mindfulness improve mental health. Meditation focuses on improving your mind. It’s your thoughts that control your mental state. For example, depression is considered a thought disorder by many medical professions. When our thoughts are negative, our emotions will be negative as well. Rewriting negative thoughts to become positive, isn’t always simple. It can take a lot of therapy and inner work to make that happen. But it is possible. Mindfulness also improves mental health. For example, if your mind is looking for opportunities to be kind to other people, you’re more likely to help others and make a difference with your kindness. As a result, you feel better about yourself and your mind doesn’t get lost in a negative vortex because you’re happy with who you are.
2. Both involve kindness and compassion
Meditation and mindfulness both involve kindness and compassion at their core. For example, in meditation a loving-kindness meditation helps people practice compassion for themselves, a stranger, and someone they have difficulties with. Meditation is also about calming the mind, which helps you get out of your head so you can help people in need. Mindfulness is also rooted in compassion and kindness. When you live in the present, you’re away from your thoughts, so it’s normal to be kinder with others because you are in the moment. It’s hard to be a jerk, when you have a moment of clarity through being mindful.
3. Both involve being present
When comparing meditation vs mindfulness, both involve some present living. In meditation, you’ve got focused attention, so your awareness of the now is very intune with the moment. You might notice an itch or a sensation as you practice, but ultimately, you’re aware of what’s happening at this very moment. In mindfulness, you’re living in the present instead of the past and future which both take place in your mind. Your actions when living mindfully tend to be positive because there are no thoughts attached to them. So, it’s easier to live in the now.
Meditation vs Mindfulness: which is better?
Meditation and mindfulness both have their place. Neither is better than the other. They’re simply different components that overlap in many ways with some subtle differences. You can practice meditation, to help you live mindfully in the world. Living a mindful lifestyle, will allow you to reap benefits of good mental health and create a drama-free life from being kinder and more compassionate. Meditation is simply a practice that helps you live with mindfulness at its core. So, when considering the two, why not practice both? You can meditate for as little as ten-minutes a day while looking for opportunities throughout your day to bring your attention to the present moment. If you’re looking for a meditation practice, you can download the Declutter The Mind app for free.