In modern times, we hear a lot about the concept of mindfulness & awareness. You can’t go on social media or watch TV without hearing about the important of mindfulness meditation or increasing your self awareness. But are these two words one of the same or do they have different meanings?
Mindfulness relates to paying attention to the present moment from a more introspected point. It allows use to alter the thought process according to what we are doing. In contrast, awareness is more about how you sense things. For example, being aware of the blue sky or the sound of the birds. It is about paying attention to what is going on around you. So, while both are pretty similar, there is a difference.
It can get pretty confusing so in this article, we are going to look at the meaning of both mindfulness and awareness and allow you to get a clear distinction between each term. We will also be looking at how you can use meditation to cultivate both of these things and better improve your life.
What Is Awareness?
In theory, awareness is simply the idea of paying attention to current situations and the sense that they give you. It is based around the way you perceive things in the present moment. Some may say that is is indeed a type of mindfulness. However, most of the time, we look at this in terms of mental health and in that context, it is something much more complex.
In modern society, there is a lot going on and you are constantly faced with a barrage of feelings and thoughts can be overwhelming. The fact is that not all of these are beneficial to your life and some could be pushed aside. Once you do this, you will feel much calmer, more centred and a lot more easily able to navigate your way through life.
Awareness is about being able to interact with your mind but identify which thoughts and emotions should receive your attention. Some professionals discuss awareness as being a kind of filter.
When we include awareness as a part of our life, we can be an observer to our thoughts and asses them without allowing them to take over and cause us pain or lose focus on what is important in any given situation. Awareness is something of a navigation tool or the mind.
While mindfulness and awareness do co-exist alongside one another there is a clear difference between mindfulness and the concept of awareness.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness has recently become a popular form of self-care and well being but far from being a fad, there is enough evidence to suggest that mindfulness can be useful for certain conditions like anxiety and depression.
Engaging in a mindfulness practice such as meditation or any activities designed to keep your thoughts in the current moment can help these conditions.
Mindfulness encourages people to live in the present moment without placing a focus on things in the world that they can’t change. For example, anything from the past that causes difficult emotions or worrying about future situations.
However, it is known that while mindfulness is an effective way to help mental health, it does take some practice to cultivate. Most commonly people will engage in meditation as this is the most effective way to control the mind. However, merely focusing on the task you are doing can be a step in the right direction.
The thing that makes mindfulness so successful is that it requires people to purposefully engage in situations and the practices fully. You must keep returning your mind to the meditation practice or situation and that can help massively in learning the technique.
One aspect of mindfulness that is very similar to awareness is the type of attention it expects you to give to your thoughts. During your meditation practice, you will be an observer without any kind of judgement, rather watching a thought pass as it goes on its journey through your mind.
This is one way in which mindfulness and awareness are similar to each other and why one cannot exist without the other.
How To Practice Mindfulness
A great way to practice mindfulness, as we have discovered is through meditation. Meditation slightly alters your state of consciousness, taking you into a meditative state. Not only can this help with your overall well being but it can massively aid focusing the mind.
When you practice meditation for mindfulness, it is as simple as focusing on your breathing and any time that you experience a though about what is going on in the world or to do with your problems, guide the mind back to the breath. No matter what your level of experience, meditation is possible. But if you think you may struggle, you could download an app onto your phone to help.
Yoga involves moving slowly and combining these movements with the breath. Again, no matter what your level, yoga can be a significant aid in your journey of self-discovery and understanding.
How To Practice Awareness
Something that makes the difference between mindfulness and awareness challenging to understand is that they can both be practiced in very similar ways.
Many of the things that you will do in terms of mindfulness are also all practices that can promote awareness. Mindfulness and awareness both use meditation and where awareness is concerned, you will use each senses alongside mindful breathing to gain a greater understanding of yourself and the world around you.
Other ways to promote awareness are to set goals as this allows you to plan out your journey and find meaningful methods of getting there. These experiences will also aid you to discover which thought processes are distracting to achieving your end goal.
Writing down your fears, dreams and anything else that fills your mind can be an excellent method for creating space in your head for the things that are important.
You can be the author of your own life by writing down anything that bothers you and analysing its worth. Looking at all of these thoughts on paper is the first step in discovering which are valid and which are merely manifestations of your emotions. As a result of looking at all of these thoughts in detail, you will be able to heal any trauma from a past experience or deal with any negative emotions.
How To Meditate
A lot of people worry that meditation will be difficult but it entails nothing more than finding a quiet space and keeping your awareness on the breath.
- If you can, sit in a upright position and keep the spine straight.
- Take the time to observe any thoughts that arise during the meditation but do not judge them.
- Keeping your focus on your breath will prevent you from engaging with any thoughts too deeply. However, some people like to use a mantra which is a word or phrase that they can chant to keep the mind focused.
- At a beginner level, you might spend just a few minutes a day in meditation, whereas when you get more confident in your abilities, you may dedicate thirty minutes or more every day.
In this post, we have looked at whether mindfulness and awareness are the same thing. While the nature of the two is very similar, there are also significant differences.
That being said, the concepts are designed to work alongside each other, acting as a complement.
All over the world, there are those who struggle through life with things like anxiety and depression and the focus on mental health is bigger than ever. Mindfulness is now being prescribed as a treatment for this. This practice is about remaining present and focusing on what is happening in the now. This could be meditation or something as simple as talking to a friend, cooking a meal or taking a walk through nature.
Very similarly, awareness is about being present but uses your physical senses. Once you cultivate this sense, you are able to look at your thoughts to determine whether they are serving you or can be discarded.
Combining the two is a powerful method of better understanding yourself, what is going on around you and will ultimately allow you to live a more fulfilled and happy life.