THE ARMY HEALTH BLOG

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Mindfulness, Meditation, and Mindful Meditation: What’s the Difference?

 

The words “mindfulness” and “meditation” are tossed around quite frequently these days, and often they are used interchangeably or in combination with one another (e.g. “mindful meditation”). Although these terms are related and generally refer to the same idea of calming the mind, there are some notable differences which are highlighted below.

What is Mindfulness?

According to mindfulness expert, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."  Practicing mindfulness means acknowledging thoughts and feelings in the moment, rather than dwelling on past or future happenings. Simply acknowledging the thoughts without judgment allows you to retain your focus on the present moment and keep a calmer mind.

For example, many people arrive home at the end of their work-day commute without really thinking about how they got there or what happened along the way. Their thoughts were preoccupied with a conversation that happened at the office or all the tasks waiting for them when they arrive at home. Someone who is practicing mindfulness would focus on the drive in a different way. They would concentrate on the sights, smells, and how they were feeling in the present moment. Maybe they would acknowledge their feelings of stress, without judgment. Maybe they would note the smell of fresh cut grass or a stinky cattle truck passing by. When they arrive home, they will be able to recall many details from the trip.

Simply put:  mindfulness is a state of being…. A way of living which focuses on the present moment.

What is Meditation?

There are many ways to define meditation, but one thing to keep in mind is that meditation is a particular action. According to Mental Health Daily, meditation is a practice that involves focusing attention inwards. The focus of inward attention could be on a variety of things, e.g., a mantra, the breathing process (inhalation and exhalation), a vision, an emotion, an area of the body. Some people use meditation to relax and help with anxiety, others use it to build concentration, and yet others pursue the practice as a means of following a particular religion, likened to contemplative prayer in some circles.

There are many types of mediation, e.g., guided imagery, loving-kindness, and mindfulness. See below for more on mindfulness meditation.

What’s the major difference between mindfulness and mediation?

Mindfulness is the way of being, and meditation is the more focused practice, “on the cushion” practice. Mindfulness is a state that you can be in/attain all day long, as you eat lunch, drive home from work, and/or wait in a line at the grocery store.  Meditation is what helps us to nurture and cultivate mindfulness, that deeper connection to the present.

Simply put: meditation is a practice.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

When practicing mindfulness meditation, while you may use the focus on the breath as a guide, you aren’t focusing your attention on one specific object necessarily. Instead, you are allowing an openness of the mind, an awareness. Allowing your mind to observe and acknowledge whatever thoughts and feelings come to mind, without judgment and without holding on to them. In other words, you are simply observing all perceptions, thoughts, memories, and senses that you experience during your practice and often using basic things, such as the breath to help you keep your focus and your mind from wandering into other thoughts.

For mindfulness meditation, you will set aside time to practice. There are many ways you can practice. Start by choosing a quiet place with little distraction. It can be in your home or outside somewhere. Set aside at least 10 minutes to practice. Find a comfortable, seated position and maintain good posture. Sitting cross-leg on the ground is a great place to start.

Start to focus on your breath. Pay attention to how your chest rises and falls with each breath in and out. As you begin to focus on your breath, it will naturally become deeper. This will also help to naturally lower your heart rate. When your attention begins to wonder to other thoughts, gently bring it back to your breath. Your mind will naturally wonder quite often from the breath, especially in the beginning. Don’t be too hard or judgmental on yourself. This is normal. Simply come back to the breath as many times as you need to.

For more on how to get stared, check out these resources:

Jon Kabat-Zinn Guided Meditation

Sharon Salzberg 28 day free guided meditation practice

Mindful.org guide. Mindfulness meditation, getting started.

 

 


Monday, July 25, 2016

Army H.E.A.L.T.H.'s Guide to Greens

Navigating the greens section at the grocery store can be intimidating, especially if you tend to buy the same variety of produce at each visit. By learning more about the diverse tastes, textures, and nutrients in different salad greens, you will feel more confident in your purchase and hopefully comfortable enough to branch out of your comfort zone and try something new.

As you will read below, salad greens are a great addition to a healthy, balanced diet. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming at least 1.5 cups of dark, leafy vegetables per week. Whether you are trying to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, or just add some more nutrient-dense foods to your diet, salad greens are the perfect addition. They are low in calories and high in volume, helping you to feel more full and satisfied when including them in your meal plan. They are also very diverse. Greens can be used in salads, smoothies, wraps, and soups, to name a few. They can be eaten raw, sautéed, or baked in the oven as crisps.

Nutrition

Dark, leafy greens are high in several vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium. They are also rich in fiber, which helps keep the digestive tract regular and the colon healthy. Kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, romaine, rapini, and Swiss chard are all examples of dark greens.

Additionally, one serving of spinach has only 23 calories, but 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.  One cup of kale has only 49 calories but 4 grams of protein. Their high fiber and protein content will leave you feeling fuller, longer. For more information on the health benefits of spinach and kale, check out the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. Superfood Series.

Quick Tip: When it comes to buying salad greens, the darker the leaf, the more nutrient dense the food. For example, spinach has 19 times more Vitamin A and 3 times as much protein as iceberg lettuce.

Taste and Texture

Consider the texture of the green when thinking of a proper use for it. For example, kale is very durable and its leaves do not wilt easily. This makes it ideal for baking kale chips in the oven. It is also a good green for salads that have dressing added ahead of time, as the leaves will not get soggy and wilt. Romaine lettuce is crispy, and tender, without being bitter. This makes it ideal for strongly flavored dressings such as Caesar. Spinach has a rich flavor and tender leaf, which makes it great for eating raw in a salad or in a wrap. Swiss chard is slightly bitter, so it is best enjoyed when sautéed or added to a soup or casserole.


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