The internet is flooded with information about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, and the words are often used interchangeably, with little explanation of either. For individuals who want to start meditating or living mindfully and starting from square one, this can be confusing.

While mindfulness and meditation are interrelated, they are not the same. A basic understanding of the differences between these two concepts can help you carve out a practice that meets your needs. Mindfulness is more of an overarching trait you develop overtime, whereas meditation is one option of something you can “do” to become mindful.

There are many different types of meditation, each with different qualities and specific practices that lead the meditator in different directions of self-development. Choosing a practice requires an understanding of one’s goals, as well as an understanding of what each type of meditation provides.

In this article, they break down mindfulness and discuss the similarities and differences of several meditation practices. This article is written to provide clarity so that you can begin or continue the journey toward your personal mindfulness and meditation goals.

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A workplace study (randomized controlled trial) investigated the effects of two types of mindfulness practice (audio-guided vs daily life mindfulness, which is the style taught by Dr. Brian Dower at Lumen) on stress and coping.

Daily life mindfulness practice showed stronger results, buffering against stress and enhancing successful coping. Audio-guided practice also had positive effects, although slightly weaker. The study emphasizes the importance of measuring both types of mindfulness practice to understand its benefits accurately.

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A study examined the impact of a 4-week online mindfulness program on healthcare workers’ resilience during the pandemic. 130 participants completed pre-, post-, and follow-up surveys. The program was found to enhance resilience by integrating mindfulness practices into personal and professional lives.

The study contributes to existing literature on the positive effects of mindfulness practice on mental well-being during the pandemic, including improved empathy, self-compassion, reduced distress, anxiety, and depression among healthcare professionals.

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“Forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku, coined by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, involves connecting with nature to enhance physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It’s a mindfulness practice that has tremendous benefit.
Studies show that walking in forests lowers blood pressure, improves attention, reduces anxiety, and enhances mood. Intentional time with trees decreases fatigue, increases focus, speeds up recovery, regulates hormones, promotes relaxation, boosts energy, and improves sleep. Forests emit phytoncides, which have calming effects.

To experience forest bathing, get yourself amongst some trees, even in a local park, and observe nature without analyzing it for 10-20 minutes. Repeat as often as you can, mindfully.

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Mindfulness-based pain relief is a promising approach as a supplement or alternative to drug treatments, and it may reduce treatment costs and the risks of drug dependence. This study showed that mindfulness training may reduce subjective pain intensity and unpleasantness in less than a week, while long-term meditation reduces the unpleasantness of pain without reducing its intensity. Cognitive and affective processes can influence the experience of pain.

Mindfulness interventions have shown effectiveness in reducing chronic pain conditions. They operate through different mechanisms compared to other interventions. Neuroimaging studies indicate differences in pain evaluation and anticipation among long-term meditators. Short-term mindfulness training also results in reduced pain intensity and unpleasantness.

The findings suggest that the mindfulness-meditation experience decouples the cognitive and affective aspects from the sensory components of pain, leading to pain relief.

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This systematic review aimed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of mindfulness meditation interventions for chronic pain in adults. Thirty-eight randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were included, with seven reporting on safety. The review found low-quality evidence suggesting that mindfulness meditation is associated with a small decrease in pain compared to various control groups in 30 RCTs. Significant effects were also observed for depression symptoms and quality of life. However, the authors conclude that additional well-designed, rigorous, and large-scale RCTs are necessary to obtain definitive estimates of the efficacy of mindfulness meditation for chronic pain.

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High-stakes exams determine future outcomes like promotion, graduation, university acceptance, or employment. Math exams are crucial in East-Asian cultures, leading to test anxiety.

A study was conducted on Chinese middle-school students using mindfulness-based intervention. Students listened to a meditation audio tape before two geometry tests, while they didn’t listen to it on two other geometry tests.

Results showed improved performance with meditation, where qualitative analysis indicated that meditation helped students focus on math, worry less about outcomes and time constraints, and reduce anxiety. Some students didn’t benefit and associated meditation negatively with Buddhism. The study suggests mindfulness meditation can enhance math exam performance, but the sample size and measurement points are limited.

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Mindfulness in the workplace is gaining popularity, but scientific research is needed to understand its impact on employee emotions and resilience.

This study compared employees who completed a one-day mindfulness workshop with those who received additional six weeks of mindfulness training similar to the trainings offered by Dr. Dower. The high-dose training group showed reduced stress, protected coping ability, and maintained positive and negative affect. The study suggests that higher doses of mindfulness training may be necessary to improve employee well-being and manage workplace stress effectively.

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This study explored the neural mechanisms behind mindfulness-based interventions for pain reduction.
Participants underwent neuroimaging during a pain task before and after being assigned to either mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), an active control condition (HEP), or a waiting list control. Long-term meditators also participated. Pain response was measured subjectively and neurally using two multivoxel machine-learning-derived signatures.

The mindfulness group showed decreased neural pain response compared to the control group and pre-intervention. They also had marginal decreases compared to the waiting list group. Mindfulness and control groups reported modest reductions in pain unpleasantness compared to the waiting list, while long-term meditators reported lower pain but similar neural response. Cumulative practice during intensive retreat was associated with reduced neural pain response in meditators.
These findings suggest that mindfulness training reduces pain through different neural pathways depending on practice extent and context, guiding its application in pain treatment.

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A study compared the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and a Health Enhancement Program (HEP) on teacher well-being, emotional regulation, and neuro-cognitive functioning. The participants were 83 Australian teachers experiencing work-related stress.

Both programs showed significant improvement in stress reduction, burnout, mindfulness, well-being, and emotional regulation, with sustained benefits at a 5-month follow-up. However, only the mindfulness group exhibited reduced brain reactivity to negative emotional stimuli, indicating improved emotional regulation beyond self-report measures. The study highlights the potential of mindfulness training for enhancing teacher well-being and neurocognitive functioning.

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A study found that using a mindfulness app for six weeks can significantly reduce rumination, depression, and anxiety in adolescents.
Participants who used the app showed lower levels of rumination compared to the control group immediately after the treatment. The effects of reduced rumination lasted up to six weeks but faded thereafter.

The study suggests that brief mindfulness meditations can be beneficial for ruminative adolescents, providing a cost-effective and easily accessible intervention. However, the study is limited by the lack of a no-treatment control group or a meditation app without mood-monitoring.

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Mindfulness therapy (MBCT) is recommended for reducing tinnitus effects and improving quality of life. This study compared MBCT with standard treatment for Thai tinnitus patients. Participants were divided into mindfulness and control groups, and the mindfulness group attended four 120-minute mindfulness sessions along with educational sessions and standard treatment. Assessments were done at baseline, 4 weeks, and 12 weeks. Tinnitus intensity was measured at baseline and 12 weeks.

Both groups showed significant improvements in all outcomes except tinnitus intensity. At 12 weeks, the mindfulness group had significantly lower scores than the control group. MBCT group had greater reductions in THI-T scores, HADs-T scores, and tinnitus intensity after the 4-week course and 3-month follow-up, leading them to state that mindfulness training benefits tinnitus management with improved scores and quality of life.

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Nature teaches us about change, adaptability, and being fully alive. Connecting with nature awakens our true nature and well-being.

Mindfulness in nature supports mindfulness practice, reducing stress and enhancing awareness. Nature enhances formal and informal mindfulness, helping us be present in daily life. It heals and teaches us to live skillfully. Nature boosts mental and emotional health, improving vision, memory, concentration, and creativity. It reduces stress, inflammation, and rumination. Spending time in nature improves mood, alertness, and overall well-being.

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Chiropractors are in a unique position that allows them to consult and advise patients dealing with chronic pain. Chiropractic care can play a large role in the management of chronic pain symptoms, but would a recommendation for participating in a mindfulness course assist in patients’ pain management?

A recent study investigated the effects of mindfulness meditation on pain perception and brain activity, with potential implications for chiropractors and their patients. The researchers found that mindfulness meditation significantly reduced intensity and unpleasantness of pain by disconnecting the pain-processing region of the brain (thalamus) from the area responsible for self-referential processing. This suggests that mindfulness meditation could serve as non-pharmacological and fast-acting pain treatment adjunct to their chiropractic care.

As we know, chronic pain affects a significant portion of the adult population, with no definitive cure currently available. While over-the-counter medications and opioids are commonly used to manage chronic pain, emerging research points to mindfulness meditation as an alternative approach that compliments chiropractic care. Mindfulness meditation involves detached observation of sensory events and has shown promise in improving the quality of life for individuals with chronic pain.

The study, conducted by Dr. Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, involved 40 pain-free individuals who were divided into two groups: one received mindfulness meditation training, while the other listened to an audiobook. Brain scans were taken while participants underwent a painful heat stimulus to their gastrocnemius. The results demonstrated that mindfulness meditation reduced pain by 33%, whereas the control group experience in 18% decrease in pain.

Further analysis revealed that mindfulness meditation deactivated the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is involved in self-narrative processing. It also decoupled the thalamus, responsible for relaying sensory impulses, from the precuneus, a  brain region linked to self-reflection. Researchers believe that mindfulness meditation relieves pain by breaking the connection between these regions.   This neurobiological theory aligns with the core principle of mindfulness, which encourages experiencing thoughts and sensations without attaching one’s ego or sense of self to them.

Dr. Brian Dower, a chiropractor and certified mindfulness teacher/trainer based out of Toronto, believes this insight into how mindfulness meditation changes how the brain processes and perceives pain can be used with chronic pain patients but also with any patient experiencing distress over associated pain symptoms.

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Work-related stress is a big issue in many professions, causing personal unhappiness, absenteeism, turnover, and health problems. Healthcare workers such as chiropractors deal with a great deal of stress, often linked to the care of patients in search of relief, as well as clinic management and self-regulation issues. It follows that healthcare professionals would benefit from programs that help reduce stress, retain staff, and avoid burnout.

In a randomized controlled trial by Errazuriz et al., they tested a mindfulness program on Chilean hospital workers. They split 105 workers into three groups: one group attended a mindfulness program that parallels the style and content of mindfulness I teach here at Lumen Mindfulness, one group took a stress management course, and the last group was simply put on a waitlist.

The mindfulness and stress management groups met for 8 weeks. The mindfulness group followed the standard Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course. Meanwhile, the stress management course included lectures, support, and activities about things like staying strong, relaxing, self-care, resilience, and seeking help. The wait-list group received no training or interventions.

The researchers measured the participants’ mental health, job satisfaction, stress levels, and mindfulness. They also checked salivary stress hormone (cortisol) levels within 45 minutes of waking.

While a number of participants dropped out, the immediate results were clear. The mindfulness group had less stress and liked their jobs more than the other groups. They were also more mindful. When it came to cortisol, the mindfulness-trained group had desirable lower levels in the morning.

There were no big differences between the stress management group and the waitlist group. At the 4-month follow-up, the mindfulness group had less trouble in their social roles and were better at “observing.”

In short, the study shows that this style of mindfulness training works better than this hospital’s traditional stress management course for reducing short-term stress and cortisol levels while also boosting short-term job satisfaction for Chilean hospital workers. To maintain these benefits, however, continued practice is required. Please note the study size and attrition rate as limitations to this study.