In today’s world, the wave of meditation and mindfulness increases, the surplus of yoga studios, self-help books, and scientific studies that acknowledge the positive benefits you will reap with the practice. The questions lie in what is meditation and mindfulness, what’s the difference, and how can they be achieved?
Meditation has a multitude of benefits, to start, it has the ability to reduce stress and anxiety, improve concentration and self-awareness, potential to reduce age-related memory loss, fight addiction and depression, and have a positive impact on certain medical conditions. These benefits can be linked to simply being present or mindful.
We are in fast-paced, high anxiety, technology-based society. Meditation brings you back home, releasing the thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow, and focusing on the moment you’re in within the practice, ultimately leading to mindfulness. Becoming self-aware is key to change, releasing pain, and understanding ourselves on a deeper level.
Mindfulness can decrease stress, anxiety, and depression, increase our ability to regulate our emotions, and become more aware of ourselves and our surroundings.
Bringing mindfulness into our lives and living in the present allows us to connect more in our relationships to our work, habits, and emotions. When we are at the moment, we have the ability to enjoy it.
One of my favorite quotes is: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Lao Tzu
So, what’s the difference?
Meditation is an intentional practice that can involve going inward, bringing focus on calming the mind, and expanding your awareness. It is typically a timed practice with a start and finishes. There are many different meditation practices, including guided meditation, breath awareness, mantra, sound bathing, and mindful meditation.
Mindfulness is the act of being aware and paying attention. This is taking notice of what is going on around you, being engaged in the conversation, the task, the moment, along with your thoughts and feelings in the present. Mindfulness is a powerful tool you can utilize in daily living and a strong meditation practice component.
That leaves us with the connection.
Meditation is a gateway to mindfulness because it ignites focus and concentration; it teaches us to calm our thoughts, key into our breath, and self-discovery. When quieting our thoughts and paying attention to the moment we are in, the smells, the sights, the sounds, the emotions, we find mindfulness. Those who consistently practice mindfulness meditation show that they carry mindfulness into their daily living. Mindfulness supports your meditation practice, while meditation can enhance your daily mindful living.
Expand your mindfulness through meditation with these tips:
- Practice daily: If daily is too extreme for your schedule, strive for 5 out of the seven days.
- Make it a routine: We all have our daily ritual, waking up, brushing our teeth, having the much-needed tea or coffee. Adding meditation to your routine and setting a specific time will make it a habit, and there will be fewer chances it gets cut from the schedule.
- Start simple: if you’re new to meditation, it doesn’t need to be overwhelming, start with 5-20 minutes. Most of us have a lot going on, and it can be intense jumping into a prolonged meditation at first, a short time of focus is a seed planted that can flourish in time.
- Designate a special space: Having a specific space for meditation will help evade any distractions and train the body and mind to relax, knowing it’s the time and space for your practice.
If you’re looking to expand mindfulness outside of your meditation practice, try these tips:
- Walk mindfully: walk with intention, paying attention to each step, the pace, the surrounding sounds, the breath, the heartbeat, and how the body feels.
- Eat mindfully: notice the texture of the food, the taste, the smell, and drop the multi-tasking. We don’t realize how enjoyable food can be when we turn off the electronics and focus on the food.
- Tune in: take time to complete a body scan throughout the day. How’s my breath, how am I feeling, how is the texture of clothes on my skin.
- Notice: Whether having a conversation or completing a task notice when the mind wanders and practice reeling it back in and fully engage.
- Slow down: we have a tendency to multi-task; this means we are focusing our attention on multiple things at once! Take the time to complete and focus one thing at a time.
Meditation and mindfulness have a powerful connection that can yield extraordinary benefits. Bringing more focus and concentration reduces stress, anxiety, and being present in your relationships and daily activities. The key is to be consistent and always be kind to yourself through the journey.