Book An Appointment

Man in meditation at the side of the ocean

Meditation Vs Mindfulness

Mindfulness and meditation seem to be buzz words in the mental health community, and at times these terms are used interchangeably, which can be confusing for those first getting started. So what’s the difference between meditation vs mindfulness? Let’s break down these terms, give examples, and offer different ways of practicing.

What Is Mindfulness?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is credited for bringing meditation and mindfulness to the West, explains mindfulness as the “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,”. Mindfulness is present moment awareness, and is thoughtful and intentional. It can help us reconnect with our body, our environment, and the present moment.

Mindfulness can be more informal than meditation, as we can practice it in every day activities. We can practice mindfulness while on a walk (noticing the sights, sounds, feelings, and senses around us), in conversation with others (focusing on the words they are saying, the feeling of our feet on the ground, noticing the environment around us), or even doing household tasks such as doing the dishes (feeling the sensation of the water running, the sound of the dishes clinking, the satisfaction of completing a task, feeling your feet on the ground).

If you’re still confused on what mindfulness is, here is an example of what it is not: You are rushing home from work and all you can think about is a stressful moment that happened today. You get in your car to drive home, and the whole way you are ruminating on this stressful moment. Suddenly, you realize you made it home but don’t remember how exactly you got there. You feel just as stressed as you did upon leaving work and feel pessimistic about the rest of the night. This “highway hypnosis” in our example here can be very common but is a great example of how being too much “in our head” or being disconnected with our environment can shape our experience.

Here’s what that situation could’ve looked like: You get off of work and notice some emotions coming up related to your stressful day, such as anger and sadness. You take a moment while sitting in your parked car to breathe, be present with these emotions, and then you notice you feel ready to drive home. You look around and notice a beautiful sunset, and realize it’s a very comfortable temperature outside. You drive home with the windows open, feeling the cool fresh air, and despite having a stressful day, you find small pleasures in the scenery around you. You arrive at home feeling more relaxed than when you left, and you move through your evening more intentionally. This example of mindfulness illustrates the benefits of mindfulness and how it can bring feelings of peace, relaxation, and groundedness in the present moment.

So what is meditation?

Meditation is found in many cultures over thousands of years. Meditation is a practice in which we contemplate, reflect, focus, or calm the mind to achieve mental well-being. Meditation is often done in a setting without distractions. While mindfulness can be done while engaging in other activities, mediation is often done while sitting or laying down in a quiet room.

There are many different ways to meditate and many different types of meditations. There is the traditional way of sitting silently in a quiet room, while some feel more benefits from listening to calm music while meditating, or listening to a guided meditation where a speaker walks you through different steps or ideas to focus upon.

Meditation can also be practiced with a focus, such as staring at the flame of the candle, or contemplating an issue while focusing on our breathing. There are many types of meditation such as lovingkindness meditation, zen meditation, insight meditation, mantra meditation, transcendental mediation, and much more.

What is a mindfulness meditation then?

All of these terms can be confusing. Taking what we learned about meditation and mindfulness, we can understand a mindfulness meditation. A mindfulness meditation combines both concepts, and includes focusing on your breath, your body, your environment, and your thoughts while sitting or laying down in an area without distractions. A mindfulness meditation may allow you to practice noticing your thoughts and the present moment without being “pulled in” to certain thoughts or feelings.

What Are The Benefits Of Meditation Vs Mindfulness? Is One Better Than The Other?

As a therapist, I have seen that mindfulness can be a more approachable tool for some. Some say that in meditation their mind races, or they do not find it relaxing as it can take lots of practice to achieve a “clear mind” in meditation. But finding small moments of presence in your day to day can be easier for some.

There are similar benefits to both of these practices, such as:

  • Greater sense of well-being
  • Feelings of relaxation, gratitude, or joy
  • Decreased rumination or overthinking
  • Reduction of stress
  • Improved working memory or focus
  • Aids pain management

Where Should I Get Started?

As mentioned earlier, mindfulness can be practiced while engaging in other activities and it may feel doable to start there. In addition to the above examples, activities like showering, walking, or when you are first awakening in the morning are great places to find a mindful moment.

As for meditation, many find that starting with a guided meditation or an app such as Headspace that offers some instruction can be helpful. You can also start meditating in short bursts, such as 30 seconds or a couple minutes at a time. In traditional meditation practices, they even encourage developing a yoga practice first to help prepare the mind for meditation. You could also start simply and set a one minute timer, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths.

Learn More About Meditation & Mindfulness

If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness or meditation, here are some helpful links:

Practice Guided Meditation

If you’d like to practice guided meditation, here are a few free links to get you started:

Meet The Author

Aubrey Nelson, Clinical Therapist at Sea Glass Mental Health



Meet The Author

Aubrey is a Clinical Counselor at Sea Glass Mental Health. She specializes in anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, trauma, ADHD, and ASD. She is trained in EMDR and has a warm, authentic, and humorous approach to therapy. 

More To Explore

Sea Glass Mental Health Logo

Providing Telehealth therapy across Arizona. Get started today!

Share This Post

Contact Us


Follow Us