The terms mindfulness and meditation are often used interchangeably, most often referring to the practice of calming the mind and finding inner stillness. However, although they are very closely related, there is a difference between the two.
Simply put, mindfulness is a form of meditation.
Meditation is an umbrella term that includes a lot of practices – or techniques – to quiet the mind and remove overpowering thoughts from the mind. One of these techniques is ‘mindfulness meditation’. Other meditation practices can include breath awareness meditation (focusing on our inhales and exhales), mantra meditation (repeating a sound such as OM), and loving kindness meditation (sending messages of loving kindness to the world, and to specific people).
Mindfulness means being present in the moment.
Mindfulness meditation specifically focuses on being present in the moment, regardless of what we are doing. We could be drinking a cup of coffee, or going for a walk in the park, eating our favorite food, or listening to our favorite song. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that urges us to remain aware and present in all of these moments.
We can practice mindfulness anywhere and at any time.
Many people practice mindfulness (and most meditation techniques for that matter) in a seated position, usually with their eyes closed, removing all sound and visual distractions, so their mind can focus completely on being still and being present. That is the most common practice of mindfulness meditation. But it doesn’t have to always be in that setting, it can be practiced anywhere and at any time. The aim is to focus our mind on whatever we are doing and not be distracted by anything else.
If we’re listening to a beautiful song, for example, and our mind starts to wander off to other thoughts or to events that happened or will happen, the practice of mindfulness meditation is to bring our mind back to focusing on just the song and listening to it with intent, letting go of all other thoughts and enjoying the simple act of listening to a beautiful sound.
It’s not always easy, we know!
Mindfulness can be especially challenging in a world where we are ‘always on’ and constantly multitasking, doing too much at once, and not fully engaged with any one thing. How many times have we had lunch without fully tasting the food because we were reading our emails, or we missed a whole conversation with our friends because we were checking our phone.
Taking a moment to stop and focus on only one task at hand with full awareness will help quiet the mind and help us feel more grounded. When we’re mindful, we are completely involved in one specific activity with all of our senses, instead of allowing our mind to wander. This focus and stillness has numerous benefits to both mind and body.
What are the benefits?
In addition to reducing stress, which is the most common reason why people practice mindfulness meditation, it has been proven to help with many other aspects of healthy living. One study found that improved focus and mindful self-control can help fight unhealthy eating habits and reduce obesity. Focusing on being in the present moment and on mental stillness especially late at night helps improve sleep quality. It is a wonderful way to slow down the constant activity of the brain before falling asleep.
Mindfulness has also been shown to improve memory, lower anxiety and blood pressure, and help depression by reducing fixation on negative emotions. It also helps to control impulsive emotional reactions to situations and to other people, thereby improving relationships and looking at situations in a more positive light.
Will I know if I’m doing it correctly?
Many people think that something out of the ordinary is supposed to happen to them during mindfulness meditation, or they must not be doing it correctly. The most common belief is that our mind needs to be free of distraction for it to work properly, breathing has to be regular and deep, and there shouldn’t be any fidgeting or restlessness.
The truth is that none of those things come easy, and mindfulness takes a lot of practice. It is very easy to be distracted and to feel anxious and impatient during any form of meditation. And it is very easy for our thoughts to wander in different directions during mindfulness, especially when we’re trying so hard to focus on one thing. Give it time, keep practicing, and it will become more natural. Mindfulness is simply awareness, we don’t have to practice for a set amount of time, we can be mindful anywhere, anytime and with anyone we like.
We practice mindfulness meditation on our luxury yoga retreats – join us on one and come discover all the benefits of calming the mind in beautiful surroundings. Take a look at all our 5* yoga retreats.
As always, happy travels… and happy meditating!
If you found this post helpful, you may also like:
“Vinyasa yoga or restorative yoga – which is better for you?”
“3 Benefits of Yin Yoga to Reduce Stress.”
Yoga Escapes organizes luxury yoga retreats in beautiful places around the world, offering a mix of Vinyasa yoga and Yin yoga classes. Contact the Yoga Escapes team for info on upcoming yoga holidays.