In today's fast-paced world, the pursuit of mental health has raised considerable attention. Mindfulness and Meditation have emerged as popular practices, offering individuals tools to navigate the challenges of modern life. While they share some similarities, there are distinct differences between the two.

Understanding the distinction between mindfulness and meditation is crucial, not just for the effectiveness of these practices but also because each comes with its specific benefits and purposes.

In this article, I will discuss the difference that sets mindfulness and meditation apart. By delving into the unique qualities of each, you will gain clarity on how they operate and the distinct advantages they offer.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one's attention to the present moment, intentionally and without judgment. It involves being fully aware of one's thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. The goal of mindfulness is to cultivate a state of heightened awareness and acceptance of the present moment.

Mindfulness doesn't claim to be a universal solution for all of life's complexities; rather, it acts as a clarifying agent, allowing us to raise a clearer perspective on our challenges.

Cultivating an awareness of our physical being empowers us to respond thoughtfully instead of succumbing to impulsive reactions driven by intense emotions and stress.

Sylvia Boorstein says in her book “It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness”,

Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn't more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.

What is meditation?

Meditation, on the other hand, is a broader term that encompasses various techniques aimed at achieving a state of deep relaxation and inner peace. It often involves focusing one's attention on a specific object or activity, such as the breath or a mantra. The purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind, enhance concentration, and expand consciousness.

It is an ancient practice that helps people go beyond their personalities and deeper within themselves so that they can experience a more profound and connected sense of their true self and their realities.

As Deepak Chopra in his book, Creating Health: How to Wake Up the Body's Intelligence says,

Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there – buried under the 60,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.

Both mindfulness and meditation offer numerous benefits for mental health. They can reduce stress levels, improve focus and concentration, increase self-awareness, enhance emotional well-being, promote better sleep quality, and even alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Differences between mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness and Meditation are related concepts but represent different aspects of contemplative practices, as I said at the beginning of the article. Here is a breakdown of their differences:


  • Mindfulness is more of a continuous and integrated practice that can be applied to various activities throughout the day. Mindfulness encourages being present in day-to-day experiences, fostering a mindful way of living.

  • Meditation is a specific, dedicated practice that often involves setting aside time for focused contemplation. Meditation sessions can vary in length and may involve specific techniques or guided practices.


  • Mindfulness is applied in daily life activities, such as eating, walking, or listening, to cultivate awareness and presence.

  • Meditation is typically practiced in a quiet space, creating intentional moments for focused attention and mental cultivation.


  • The primary goal of mindfulness is to be fully present and aware, accepting each moment without judgment. It emphasizes observing thoughts and feelings without becoming entangled in them.

  • Meditation's goals can vary based on the specific meditation technique. Common goals include relaxation, improved concentration, emotional regulation, and spiritual insight.


  • Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the flow of thoughts and sensations without necessarily trying to change them.

  • Meditation may involve specific techniques like focusing on the breath, visualizations, or mantra repetition to cultivate a specific mental state.


  • Mindfulness can be practiced throughout the day, integrating awareness into various activities.

  • Meditation typically involves dedicated time set aside for the practice, whether it is a matter of a few minutes or longer sessions.

Effects of mindfulness & meditation on the brain

Scientific research on mindfulness and meditation has significantly expanded over the years, revealing compelling insights into their effects on the brain. Here are some key scientific discoveries related to the impact of mindfulness and meditation on the brain:

Changes in brain structure

  • Hippocampus growth: Studies, such as one published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, have suggested that regular meditation might be associated with an increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, a region linked to memory and learning.

  • Amygdala changes: The amygdala, associated with the processing of emotions, has shown structural changes in response to mindfulness practice. Research published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience indicates that meditation may reduce amygdala activity and volume, potentially reducing stress.


  • Enhanced connectivity: Mindfulness practices have been linked to increased connectivity between different regions of the brain. Functional MRI studies have demonstrated enhanced connectivity in networks associated with attention, sensory processing, and the autonomic nervous system.

  • Prefrontal cortex activation: The prefrontal cortex, responsible for executive functions like decision-making and emotional regulation, may show increased activation during meditation. This is thought to contribute to improved attention and self-regulation.

Pain perception

Altered Pain Processing: Research, including a study in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggests that mindfulness meditation can alter the perception of pain by influencing brain regions involved in pain processing, such as the anterior cingulate cortex.

5 steps to practice mindfulness

To practice mindfulness exercises throughout your day-to-day life:

  1. Start by bringing your attention to your breath whenever you remember.

  2. Engage your senses fully in your activity - notice sights, sounds, and smells.

  3. Take moments to pause throughout the day and check in with yourself - how are you feeling physically? Emotionally?

  4. Practice non-judgmental awareness - observe your thoughts without getting caught up in them.

  5. Cultivate gratitude by intentionally noticing things you appreciate in your surroundings.

5 steps to take a meditation practice

For those interested in starting a meditation practice, here is a simple guide:

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can sit or lie down.

  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax your body.

  3. Choose a focal point for your attention, such as the sensation of breath entering and leaving your nostrils.

  4. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment, gently bringing your focus back to the chosen focal point whenever you notice your mind wandering.

  5. Start with short sessions of 5-10 minutes daily and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.

Which one should I use?

When it comes to choosing between mindfulness and meditation as "better" practices, it ultimately depends on individual preferences and goals. Some people may find mindfulness more accessible as it can be integrated into daily activities such as eating or walking. Others may prefer dedicated meditation sessions for deeper introspection.

Experimenting with different techniques from each practice can help people find what resonates best with them on their journey toward greater mindfulness and self-discovery.