What’s the difference between Mindfulness and Meditation?

I am often asked what the difference is between mindfulness and meditation. So I thought I would share my take on it.

The idea of meditation has been around for 1,000s of years and is associated with many different traditions. Then it kind of fell out of favour in more recent times and, in the West, became associated with hippies and ‘new age’ stuff.

Mindfulness has become popular in the last 10 – 20 years but Jon Kabat-Zin in the US and Mark Williams in the UK have been working with mindfulness based stress reduction programs since the 1970s and 80s. These programme have been the subject of much research and have shown amazing results for people struggling with stress, anxiety, and depression. New studies are being published frequently demonstrating the efficacy of a mindful approach to dealing with mental health issues.

But isn’t mindfulness and meditation the same thing? Probably! You will often see the terms used interchangeably online but some people take exception to this! So here is my view:

For me, meditation is generally a more formal practice. It is about sitting or lying quietly somewhere and focussing on the breath or a guided visualisation. This can be for anywhere between 5 and 40 minutes. Meditation is most often associated with the breath, counting, a mantra (a word or a phrase) which helps to focus on the here and now.

Mindfulness, for me, is a broader thing and can encompass any activity which brings us back to the present moment. So a lot of modern writing on the subject focusses on ‘eyes open’ techniques including walking, running and movement mindfulness. Or noticing things such as things we can see, hear, feel and smell.

But frankly, does it matter? I think that the concept of meditation suffered from a bit of bad reputation and maybe mindfulness is a bit of rebrand. But which ever way you look at it, it is amazing!

Stress and anxiety are future states. We are stressed and anxious mostly about things in the future, which haven’t happened yet, which may not even happen! Or we are ruminating about things in the past. So being present in the right here, right now, means that we don’t actually have any problems! That’s pretty cool isn’t it?

So whatever you call it and whatever you do to be present see how you can work some mindfulness into your day and see what happens.

This is my opinion. I know that others will disagree and have a different version of the difference between meditation and mindfulness, and some people will say that there is no difference at all! What do you think? Drop your comments below – I’d love to hear from you.

It’s been a s#1t week! And I’m not perfect….

Have you ever had one of those weeks?

There is no way around it – it has been a shit 7 days! And I am here to admit that I am not perfect – and that I have not dealt with it all very well!

It started off with lunch with my mother! This is always a source of stress and anxiety for me.  There is absolutely nothing like family to press your buttons! I felt that I had got out of it relatively unscathed having not lost my temper, not cried, and only being criticised a couple of times. So not bad generally.

But I was clearly feeling a bit fragile as on Tuesday I had a meeting with someone and received some criticism that knocked me off my feet.

I have often been told that I wear my feelings on my face! But I have been working soooo hard on it. I am using all of the tools and techniques that I have on myself daily. I have been consciously working on how I feel and how it comes [Read more…]

Self Love and Why it is Important (and no, it’s not *that*!)

Self-love and why it’s important.

Self love is often difficult.

I know. I have been there.

I have beaten myself up, put myself down, thought I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t deserve whatever it was that I wanted, etc. etc. etc.

It was a dismal place. It was exhausting. I was constantly seeking validation from others, and then not accepting it when it did come because I wasn’t good enough and they didn’t know what they were talking about because I already ‘knew’ that I was rubbish. Friends and family thought that I was mad trying to have my own business. They thought that I should stay in the ‘comfort’ of being employed – even though they could see how miserable I was.

I was scared, I was alone and I needed people to support me. But all that I heard was that it would be difficult. It would be lonely. I would not succeed. [Read more…]

Why Goal Setting is my Superpower!

Why goal setting is my Superpower!

Do you set goals? Targets? Objectives? If not, I’d be really interested in knowing why not!

For me goal setting is my superpower!

I worked in the corporate world for many years before setting up my own business. I was used to having objectives set for me. Having targets for projects, having objectives in my annual appraisal. And I worked hard to achieve these.

But then I decided to go my own way and I found myself rebelling against them! I wasn’t working for anyone else so why bother? But I found myself drifting and just getting by and I looked at my business [Read more…]

Have you failed on your resolutions already?

It’s that time of year when most people have failed to keep their resolutions on track in some way or another. Have you failed on your resolutions already?

  • Have you fallen out of love with your goals for this year?
  • Have you already gone back to old habits and behaviours?
  • Are you feeling fed up, despondent and at a loss on how to move things forward?
  • Do you feel like a failure?

I’m seeing a lot of stuff on Facebook about how February is the new January! [Read more…]

Blue Monday?

 

So today is supposed to be Blue Monday. The third Monday of January is supposed to be the day that we have already given up on our new year’s resolutions and are just too depressed or overwhelmed to carry on with the good intentions we set for the new year.  But it is only 3 weeks into the new year!  It is far too early to start giving up yet!

So if you are feeling overwhelmed and if you feel like giving up already here are some ideas for you to think about.

Why do resolutions fail?

Mostly because the resolutions that we set in the heat of the new year celebrations [Read more…]

Understanding Anxiety

what-is-anxiety

Understanding Anxiety

Most of us feel anxious at some point – we are all familiar with exam nerves, worrying about a big presentation at work etc. Anxiety about new and unfamiliar situations is perfectly natural. However, for some people this becomes a semi-permanent state. The psychotherapist Carl Jung described anxiety as ‘fear spread thinly’, which is a pretty good description!  Understanding anxiety is the first step to overcoming it.  

The symptoms are pretty much the same as for stress, but, unlike stress, anxiety is often not related to any particular situation or circumstance. It can become a way of life for some people.  Anxiety can manifest itself in different ways for different people.  Generally it can feel like a low level feeling of fear, butterflies in the tummy, racing heart, inability to think clearly, insomnia.  Do any of these sound familiar?  Understanding what causes anxiety is the first step to really addressing the problem.

Anxiety is often related to particular thought patterns, where people dwell on the negative and fail to see the positive.  Or where someone always expects the worst to happen and believe that everything in their life is providing further evidence that this is the case. Psychologists call these negative automatic thoughts and I will be posting more on that soon.

Anxiety can also be a learned behaviour – so if someone in your family was overly anxious then there is a chance that you might suffer from anxiety as well.

Anxiety can lead to panic attacks. These can be really frightening and debilitating. Sufferers often describe a panic attack feeling almost like a heart attack – pains in the chest, shortness of breath, dizziness, and sweating. This is the body responding to a frightening situation in the fight/flight response but, because there is no immediate actual danger, we can confuse it with something else.

The good news is that anxiety is treatable. Many of the stress tips I have posted on my Facebook page will help to provide some relief from anxiety. But there are other treatments which are really effective for treating anxiety conditions, such as cognitive behaviour therapy and hypnotherapy.

What causes stress?

 

What Causes Stress?

What causes stress?  Well that’s different for everyone.

Some of us get stressed by work, deadlines, targets etc. Others get stressed by lack of work life balance.  Some of us get stressed by the people around us.  What causes stressed cannot be defined as a single thing.  It is all about how we deal with it.  And the best place to start is to understand what is going on when we get stressed.

Stress is essentially an evolutionary response.

We have a primal part of our brain – often called the lizard brain, or the chimp (if you have read the Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters (which I really recommend)) – and this part of the brain is responsible for our fight, flight or freeze response. So when we see something new it’s this part of the brain that responds first – assessing whether we need to run away from it, fight it, freeze and hope it goes away, or whether it is safe. The lizard brain releases various hormones which prepare us to respond and these hormones get our heart pumping faster, reduces digestion, sends blood to the muscles and gets our lungs working faster.

When we were dealing with immediate threats that was OK. This was fine when dealing with sabre tooth tigers. But these days are stressors tend to be longer term such as work stresses, family life etc. and we can’t run away or fight these anymore. But our lizard brain is still pumping out these hormones which we aren’t using as they were intended to be used. And this is what causes us problems.

Think about the last time when you were stressed. Did you find yourself feeling a bit cold and clammy? Did you find yourself breathing quickly and in the top of your chest? Did you find your tummy clenching up? All of this is due to the hormones being released and not being used up.

In small bursts this is OK. It can even be helpful. But it can cause some really long term issues if not managed effectively.

If you find yourself getting stressed take a look at my pages and see what you can do to help manage your stress levels.

Let It Go Day

Today is apparently let it go day.  So here is a gratuitous minion picture!

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Body Image, schmody Image!

I was in London recently with my amazing friend Sarah and we were looking for cheap (free!) things to do in London and found a festival at the London City Hall (apparently a.k.a the eyeball!) On the way there from the tube we stumbled across these amazing sculptures by a Chinese artist Hungfei Xu.  I just had to share them here as I love the utter joy, exuberance and inhibition in them! And that they show people that fat people can be beautiful too!

I hope that you enjoy them too!

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I love the skateboarding woman – just because it shows that you can do anything you want whatever your size! [Read more…]