Our world has changed so much in recent times. It's not a surprise to find many of us feel overwhelmed. It's difficult to know how to self-care in the modern world, with two popular approaches, Mindfulness and Meditation. But which is best, and are they for everyone?
What Are Mindfulness And Meditation?
Mindfulness and meditation are slightly different from each other, even though they may look the same from a spectator's point of view.
Mindfulness focuses on the presence of self in the here and now, without reference to past or future. The technique is simple to master - for example: fully appreciating a meal - noticing every taste and texture of the food, taking a bath or shower - consciously noticing the lapping water, heat or cool, and the feel of soap bubbles. Another technique is sitting quietly, seeing how breezes pass over your skin, becoming aware of smells and sounds around you.
Meditation is almost the opposite. It focuses on being unaware of the present moment and achieving complete stillness and serenity. Meditation involves a deep focus on breathing, slowing the body and mind to allow peace and tranquillity to come through, giving your system a bit of a break, if you like.
They are very different (even though they look the same), but both achieve peace in their own ways.
Why Do We Use Mindfulness And Meditation?
The simple answer is we're either too busy or not busy enough. Both of these are detrimental to our health and wellbeing. The pressures of isolation for some, work, and kids for others - and now COVID - have changed our lives. We are in a new world that we don't all feel fully equipped to navigate emotionally.
Everyone turns to comfort in times of crisis: from diet and exercise and the positive end of the scale to alcohol or substance abuse at the negative end. With self-awareness and care becoming more important than ever, people are looking to find positive, healthy, and sustainable ways to look after themselves. At this point, we could consider Mindfulness and Meditation.
What's Good About Mindfulness? Are There Any Downsides?
Someone suffering from feeling low or lonely may find mindfulness helps them to be more aware of their surroundings. It brings to the attention how the world goes on turning - and can help figure out how to begin to take part and appreciate this newfound awareness, rather than merely spectating.
You feel more connected with the world; more aware of your physical health - aches and pains not noticed before may be worth checking out. An essential part of mindfulness is not to try to change anything around you - just to notice and accept it. With that comes a natural tendency towards embracing the present as it stands.
Mindfulness is not a magic cure, though - and it's not for everyone, and it does have its downsides. It can be hard work. It calls for conscious awareness of stimuli and can feel like a hindrance on a bad day: another thing on the to-do list.
Equally, there are things you don't necessarily want to dwell on - you may have noisy neighbors, a draughty window, or a dripping tap at home. The dog might snore. Things you never noticed before suddenly jump front and center of your consciousness - not always a good thing!
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Meditation?
Meditation is a great way to leave the cares of the world behind you, if just for a while. You can feel completely at one with yourself and entirely at peace, not even caring about what is happening in the same room. It is a learned skill, which has served millions around the world for thousands of years.
People who have consistently 'busy' minds - always on the go, who has a never-ending internal dialogue, and who can't find peace to let themselves think (literally) may trend towards the stillness of meditation.
On the flip side, the total sense of disconnection of meditation may not be the best or most appropriate habit for some. It can lead to a person becoming insular. Escapism can be beautiful - but it can also result in issues or concerns being 'shelved' rather than being dealt with or tackled.
Which Technique Is Right For Me?
That is a question only you can answer. Relaxation is a very private and personal experience: what is right for one person is not necessarily right for another. What works for you one week may not work the next.
Our emotions and how we react to them change over time. Thus, it is important to stay open to new experiences and be prepared to try new self-care methods. The best way to know which technique is for you is to try them out and see what works for you.
Why not have a go, and see if you can find a side to yourself you never knew you had?