Mindfulness versus Meditation: 5 Key Differences

Okay, so you heard about mindfulness and meditation, it’s basically the same thing, you think, so you’re just going to go ahead, sit down and breathe – and that’s that, right?

Well, not so much. There are some key differences between mindfulness versus meditation that we will explore in this article.

And I’m going to be honest with you – this topic can be somewhat confusing, but there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. As you continue to practice more, read more, and make your own experiences, you’ll find out what works for you and that’s ultimately what matters, right?

Sunset on a beach with a girl sitting on the beach cross-legged and reaching her arms up to the sky, in e meditative kind of way.

So, before we dive into the nitty gritty, let’s look at the definitions of mindfulness versus meditation again to start us of.


Mindfulness is (as defined by Oxford Languages): “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something” or “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique”.


Meditation is (as defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary): “to engage in contemplation or reflection” or “to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness”.

Although the terms mindfulness and meditation are often used interchangeably, we can see some key differences in the act of practice, intention behind the practice, and that the desired outcome is different in mindfulness versus meditation. Let’s explore five of the main differences between mindfulness versus meditation.

1. Focus

One of the main differences between mindfulness versus meditation is the focus of each practice. Mindfulness involves being fully present and engaged in the moment, paying attention to thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations without judgment. Meditation, on the other hand, involves focusing your attention on a single object or idea, such as your breath or a specific mantra.

2. Intention

Another key difference between mindfulness versus meditation is the intention behind each practice. Mindfulness is focused on cultivating awareness, reducing stress, and improving overall well-being. Meditation, however, is often practiced with the intention of developing specific mental qualities such as compassion, focus, or spiritual growth.

3. Practice

Mindfulness can be practiced at any time during the day, during any activity. You don’t need to sit in a specific posture or engage in a particular technique. As a result, mindfulness can be practiced more informally – even on-the-go. Meditation, however, is a specific practice that often involves sitting in a particular posture and engaging in a specific technique or mantra. Meditation is, therefore, considered a more formal practice and does require a certain time and place dedication.

4. Duration

Mindfulness can be practiced for any amount of time, and be integrated into your daily routine. You can practice mindfulness while walking, eating, or even doing the dishes. Meditation, on the other hand, is often practiced for a set amount of time each day, such as 10 or 20 minutes, usually in a still position with a specific object of focus.

5. Benefits

While both mindfulness and meditation can have numerous benefits, they differ in their outcomes. Mindfulness can help reduce stress, increase awareness, and improve overall well-being. Meditation, on the other hand, can lead to specific benefits such as increased focus, emotional regulation, and spiritual development. Check out more benefits of meditation explained here.

The main difference between the aspects of mindfulness versus meditation are the formality of the practice, how to best practice, and the specific intentions and outcomes. Whereas you can practice mindfulness at any point during the day, wherever you are and for any period of time, meditation requires a dedicated space, time and place and more concentration for the practice.

Mindfulness versus meditation: Examples

Hence, mindfulness can be considered a state of being – being aware of your surroundings, senses, and bodily sensations, while acknowledging their presence without judgment and then letting them pass on without attachment to them.

Here are some daily activities in which you could employ an ‘informal’ mindfulness practice:

  • Taking a shower: As you do, notice the temperature of the water and how it feels on your skin. Notice the smell of the soap. Maybe think of the water as washing away any stress or negative feelings. Observe your thoughts, as you do.
  • Driving your car: If you feel yourself becoming impatient with traffic, take a breath and notice yourself supported by the car seat. Feel your back resting and your hands firm on the steering wheel. Take a note of what song is playing on the radio. These are simply measures that bring your awareness back to the present moment.
  • Making coffee: Try and make a ritual out of this every-day task. Notice the smell of the coffee and what happens in the body. Be aware of your movements and maybe the dripping sound of the coffee. Be fully there, doing just that – making coffee.
  • Eating a meal: One of the five types of mindfulness is actually mindful eating. Find the other four in my article. Mindful eating refers to being fully aware of the taste, texture, and smell of your food, when eating, as well as enjoying your meal without any distractions (phone, TV, newspaper, etc.). Try it!

Check out my article on the different types of mindfulness practices.

Image showing a book and coffee in the bed. Having an aware and present moment reading a book in bed can be mindfulness.

Meditation, on the other hand, requires concentration and intentional focus for a set period of time with the intention of creating a ‘different headspace’ – such as clarity. There are, however, many different meditation techniques that stem also from different heritages, such as Buddhism or Hinduism. Check out Positive Psychology for more info on this.

Here are some examples of different meditation techniques:

  • Mantra meditation: In mantra meditation, a specific phrase or sound is used as the object of focus and repeated over and over for the duration of the meditation. Mantra meditation works beautifully with affirmations, too. You could, for example, say “I inhale peace and confidence”, “I exhale anything that no longer serves”.
  • Visualisation: In this type of meditation, one visualises a specific image or their imagination to a place that will bring joy. The idea is to visualise and focus on what you want, rather than what you don’t. I absolutely love this one and believe that if we manifest the life we want in our thoughts, the universe will make it happen.
  • Metta meditation (Loving-kindness meditation): The metta meditation is quite popular and comes from the Buddhist tradition. In this meditation you extend love and kindness to others and to yourself! And yes, extending love and kindness to yourself can be the trickiest part of this meditation.
  • Yoga meditation: Yup, you heard right. The yoga practice is a form of moving meditation, where the object of focus is our breath and movement. Bear in mind, though, that the physical yoga practice is only a small part of the larger practice that is yoga and used to prepare the body to sit in meditation for long periods of time.
  • Mindfulness meditation: And we make full-circle. Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation that is widely practiced and known. It consists of constantly bringing our attention back to the present moment and involves noting our bodily sensations, too. You could do this by simply sitting and bringing your attention back to the breath every time you notice your mind wander, or by walking outside and noticing your feet on the ground, the air on your face.

In conclusion, mindfulness versus meditation are two distinct concepts, where one is more of a state of being (mindful), whereas the other is a formal practice to achieve such altered states of being (meditation). Both mindfulness and meditation can be beneficial for improving your mental and emotional health. Try out some different ways of meditation, or make any daily activity your mindfulness practice, to find what works best for you!

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