The term “mindfulness” gets thrown around quite a bit these days. It is often used interchangeably with “meditation.” But, are they the same? If not, what’s the difference? Today we are going to learn a little more about both.
Mindfulness, according to headspace.com is not actually the same as meditation:
“Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. We train in this moment-to-moment awareness through meditation, allowing us to build the skill of mindfulness so that we can then apply it to everyday life.”
So, meditation is really just the way we train and get better at being mindful, or present in our everyday lives. Studies have shown that meditation can reduce stress and anxiety, improve emotional health, and increase self-awareness. For intuitive eaters out there, it could actually help us become more aware of our bodies’ physical signals! Other benefits include increased attention span and increased kindness – seriously, meditation can increase positive thoughts and actions towards yourself and others.
Types of Meditation
There are many types of meditation that you will hear about from friends, family, and probably celebrities. Transcendental Meditation is a popular type you will hear about in the celebrity world and will take quite a bit of time out of your day. But…
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” – Zen Proverb
There is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, which is an eight-week evidenced-based program focused on techniques to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain.
There are a lot of meditation techniques, and many people just pick a word or phrase to meditate on.
My Mindfulness Meditation Journey
I use guided meditation. Let me tell you a little bit about my journey. Like so many people, I live with and manage anxiety. A provider of mine, suggested meditation to avoid the use of medications that help with panic attacks.
I was skeptical, of course. I also had quite a distracted mind, especially when I felt anxious. But, I tried. I used the Headspace meditation app, because it had a free trial, and I liked the English accent of the creator, Andy Puddicombe (we all have our reasons)!
You can check out his famous TED talk here:
That voice though, right?
Anyway, I was hooked after a week, and I found that a simple ten to fifteen minutes was pretty soothing. Some days meditation felt easy. Some days I couldn’t calm myself down. Puddicombe explains in his easy-to-follow animations that meditation is not about trying to get thoughts out of our heads, but instead watching those thoughts go by without getting caught up in them. How many times have you said, “I can’t meditate because I can’t clear my mind!”? Fear no more!
What I found over months of practice is that my panic and anxiety improved, and were better managed overall. I could also focus for longer periods of time, sleep better, and remain calm in more intense situations. Meditation was a life-changer for me – and all I had to do was sit there. It became a daily form of self-care, and a gift that I looked forward to each day.
Over the years, my daily practice has come and gone in waves. Yet, I know I can always come back to it when I need it.
Things to Remember:
- You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment.
- Meditation is a practice – it takes time to improve your mindfulness. Be kind to yourself.
- You don’t need anything at all to be mindful or meditate. All of the things I mentioned are just tools. Consider just sitting down for a few minutes and focusing on your breathing.
- Consider trying a few minutes of mindfulness before eating a meal. See if it changes your focus on hunger and fullness during that meal.
To be clear – I have no stock or affiliate buy-in for Headspace.com. I just mention it because I love it. There are plenty of free and paid apps and programs out there, whether guided meditation is your thing or something else. Calm is a great app, for example, which has paid and non-paid options. For veterans and active duty, the app store has a VA Mindfulness Coach app that is pretty amazing as well – also free. It teaches mindfulness meditation step-by-step!
Have you found any mindfulness resources that help you? Any apps? What is your experience with meditation? I’d love to hear more!
Niki is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of New Frontier Nutrition LLC. Niki works to help clients create a diet-free life with Intuitive Eating strategies. She lives at home with her partner, two dogs, and three cats.