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Mindfulness & Meditation.
What’s the Difference? 

Mindfulness and meditation go hand in hand. Here’s how!

By Samantha Yarde

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an awareness and attention to the present moment. It can be practiced formally, such as through a meditation practice or informally, throughout everyday life. Meditation is the formal practice of pausing and turning awareness and attention to a target, usually the breath. Meditation is a formal mindfulness practice because it requires awareness and attention to the present moment. 

How can mindfulness be practiced informally throughout the day? 

Mindfulness can be practiced informally throughout the day by focussing awareness and attention to experiences as they happen in each moment. This can include attending to the things we register through our 5 senses. For example, you can practice mindfulness while eating, by attending to the colour, smell, texture, sound and taste of foods. You can even draw awareness to simple daily tasks such as washing the dishes, driving and brushing your teeth. 

How can mindfulness be practiced formally through meditation? 

While meditation might preferably be done in a quiet space, it can in fact be practiced anywhere. Once in a comfortable seat, you can begin by bringing a focussed attention to a target, which is usually the breath because it helps to anchor you to the present. As you focus your attention to your breath, you may begin to notice your attention shift to thoughts and emotions. That’s OK. Without judgement, allow them to naturally come and go. Judgement takes you out of the present moment of mindfulness so allow them to pass. With regular and consistent practice, meditation improves overall mindfulness. 

What are the benefits of mindfulness? 

Some of the researched benefits of mindfulness include1:

😌 Decreased stress, anxiety and reactivity
🧠 Greater cognitive flexibility
🦠 Increased immune functioning
⚠️ Improved attention and sensory processing
💗  Increased ability to manage emotions and distractions
🧡 Greater well-being and compassion towards self and others 

What is happening in the brain during mindfulness practices? 

There are two areas of the brain important in mindfulness practices. There is the amygdala which is responsible for our emotions such as happiness, sadness, fear and anxiety. Emotions are likely to come up during mindfulness practices. When they do, allow them to naturally come and go as you return your attention back to your target, the breath, or in the example above, food. Overtime, the amygdala may become less activated as you steady your mind, awareness and attention.

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for our focus, attention and decision making. Since mindfulness is awareness and attention to the present moment, this part of the brain is most activated and sharpened.

So, what does this all mean? 

Through practicing mindfulness regularly and consistently, both formally and informally, you begin to attend to each of the moments of your life as you experience them. You will learn to see your thoughts and emotions simply for what they are and from a gentle and non-judgmental place. You will start to slow down and attend to an awareness of yourself and others, allowing for greater compassion to build.

Through mindfulness, you focus only on what you have control over which is the present moment. Allowing for stress and anxiety to reduce, leading to greater overall health and well-being. Ready to get started? 😊 

The real meditation practice is how we live our lives from moment to moment to moment.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn

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Samantha Yarde is a Registered Early Childhood Educator from Toronto who has been working with children and families for 8 years. She currently holds an Honours Bachelor in Child Development and specializes in early childhood development, mental health and self-regulation. Samantha is a guest writer for Smoov, sharing her expertise, experience and tips, specifically pertaining to healthy development and the well-being of children.  

1 Davis, D. M. & Hayes, J. A. (2011). What are the Benefits of Mindfulness? A Practice Review of Psychotherapy-Related Research. American Psychology Association. 48, 198-208. doi: 10.1037/a0022062 

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