Mindfulness and meditation are two common terms we heard very often, and it most cases, they’re used interchangeably. You’ve heard it on the news the findings of some clinical studies or read it on somewhere perhaps from a yoga studio offering such service. But, are there any differences between mindfulness and meditation?
Without further looking at both terms, they appear similar and achieve similar function…to calm the distracted mind. If you search in Google the differences between mindfulness and meditation, you will find that there are some overlaps between the two. However, each has different definition and meaning and achieve a specific purpose.
Similar to yoga both the history of mindfulness and meditation began in ancient history often originated from a spiritual point of view or religion. The history of meditation can be traced back even before the ancient times with its origin came from prehistoric people’s religion that includes chanting rhythm also known as mantras.
Earliest recorded history of meditation can be traced in the Vedas, which is the oldest text in Hinduism between 1700 and 1100 BCE. Then meditation evolved into different practices like Buddhism and Taoism that are both primarily practiced in China and India.
The primary purpose of ancient meditation is to transcend emotions, achieve calmness, being present and achieve spiritual growth. When meditation was first introduced to the Western civilization during the 20th century, it was shifted to suit modern society in a secular way, or non-religious.
Later, meditation was used as a tool to reduce stress and improve well-being. Today, meditation is used as part of a holistic healing practice.
The main difference between mindfulness and meditation is that the term meditation covers a wider and deeper meaning of practice such as strong concentration, reaching a higher consciousness, acknowledging the mind in a self-regulating manner.
Meditation in its broadest meaning involves many techniques aiming to reach high consciousness. It involves emotion like patience, love and compassion, and mindfulness.
Therefore, the main difference between mindfulness and meditation is that mindfulness is a form of meditation. In the Christian faith, there’s another form of meditation called contemplation. Other meditation techniques include yoga, silence, sexuality, breathing, tantra and emptying the mind.
Dr. Ramesh Manocha, psychiatry lecturer and among the researchers who conducted a study on the effects of meditation on children with ADD and adults, and he summed up it this way; meditation is mind emptiness and mindfulness means being mindful on something at that very moment.
For instance, mindfulness can be used in almost every way during day-to-day activity like eating. You might have heard the phrase mindful eating, which means focus on the food you’re eating and do nothing except eating.
Another example is drinking a cup of warm tea, instead of drinking tea while watching TV or working in front of a computer monitor, stop and do nothing but drink tea.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD who was interviewed by Oprah in Super Soul Sunday said mindfulness is awareness.
Unlike meditation that was normally practiced for a period of time, mindfulness is simply being aware of the present moment and can practice anywhere. Reading a book is another example of being mindful, which means you’re focused on the book you’re reading and not thinking about anything else.
The Combined Health Benefits Of Practicing Meditation and Mindfulness
It is possible to learn all the different meditation techniques, but you don’t need to do that in order to reap the benefits of it.
Simply by being mindful during day-to-day activities can significantly reducing stress down to manageable or controllable level without affecting health. The reason many people are stressed out because they’re doing one thing and think many things at the same time.
It somewhat overloads the brain and produces stress hormone because it thinks something is wrong. However, being mindful to something whatever you’re doing and setting aside all other things later, it keeps you focused, more productive and less stressed.
Studies found convincing evidence that harnessing mind power through meditation or mindfulness can help improve a person’s health both mentally and physically. One study finds that yoga, which is a form of meditation reduced oxidative stress and increase antioxidants in the body.
Other studies also found that regular meditation practice can have significant positive changes in cellular level.
Another recent study conducted by researchers from Brown University finds a significant link of dispositional mindfulness and regulation of glucose.
This study demonstrated a significant association of dispositional mindfulness with glucose regulation and provided novel evidence that obesity and sense of control may serve as potential mediators of this association. As mindfulness is likely a modifiable trait, this study provides preliminary evidence for a fairly novel and modifiable potential determinant of diabetes risk.
Another study found mindfulness to have a strong link on sleep improvement on older adults who normally take pills for sleeping purposes.
Other studies found mindfulness is helpful in improving focus, reducing dependence on opioid drugs, reducing anxiety and depression level. And, another remarkable finding from a study done at Wisconsin University by Richard Davidson, found that positive thinking along with mindfulness has a beneficial effect at the DNA level in patients with breast cancer. Richard Davidson said;
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice.
It may be difficult for beginners to embark on the journey of meditation, but that’s just the start. Take small steps at a time by doing 5 to 10 minutes of meditation daily while engaging mindfully on day-to-day activities from simple chores like cooking, or preparing coffee or tea.
Practice the breathing techniques of inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Feel every breath in and out you take and eventually this will silence your mind and keep focusing on it.