As meditation and mindfulness become more popular, people often ask what’s the difference between the two practices. Confusion about the two terms is understandable as they’re often used in a similar context. Here’s a quick overview:
Meditation typically refers to an intentional practice of sitting or lying down and focusing inward to increase focus, calm, and emotional regulation. People spend anywhere from 1 minute to an hour or more consciously guiding their awareness to a point of focus such as a word, or the breath. There are many types of meditation including:
Metta (loving kindness) meditation
Mindfulness can be practiced anytime, anywhere. At it’s simplest, it’s the practice of paying attention to your thoughts, behaviours, emotions, movements, and of those around you, without judging. When you’re being mindful, you’re actively engaged in what you’re doing without letting your mind wander.
The average person has between 60,000-80,000 thoughts a day so having thoughts during meditation is to be expected and is part of the practice. Each time you notice that your mind has wandered, simply bring your attention gently back to your anchor point. Each time you do this, you strengthen the part of your brain that supports focus and attention, which over time, helps you to be more present in every day life.
This is a question nearly everyone asks. Once you start meditating regularly you’ll notice how different your day feels when you start to let your practice slip. Ideally, we encourage people to carve time out in their day to make meditation a habit, just as you would with physical exercise and eating healthy. This might mean getting up 20-30 minutes earlier each day, meditating on the train to work, or taking time out during your lunch break.
The recommendation for best results is 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes between 4-7pm at night. However, we get this isn’t realistic for everyone, especially if you’re caring for children or parents in addition to working full-time, exercising, studying etc. I encourage people to start with 5 minutes a day and increase by 5 minutes after 3 days or a week until you reach 20 minutes. On days when it’s impossible, do whatever you can and pick it up again the next day. You don’t need one more thing to feel guilty about!
See our “Why meditate?” page for an overview of how meditation can change your life and your brain.
Anytime is a good time to meditate but we recommend first thing in the morning as it’s often the best chance to find a quiet spot without distraction. It’s also a great way to start the day with a clear mind and open heart.
As davidji says, when meditating, “comfort is queen”. You want to be as comfortable as possible so that you enjoy meditating and will be less distracted by physical discomfort. Ideally you should sit as it helps you to remain aware during practice, but lying down is also fine if that’s more comfortable. And if you start to feel uncomfortable during meditation, scratch that itch, or move position, then gently go back to your anchor (i.e. breath, mantra).