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.

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