Meditation and Mindfulness: How to Get Started

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Hyperfocus" by Chris Bailey. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the difference between meditation and mindfulness? How do you get started with these practices?

Productivity expert Chris Bailey argues that meditation and mindfulness can contribute to your productivity by training you to focus. He makes a distinction between the two practices and explains how you can reap their benefits by making them daily habits.

Keep reading to learn about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and how to make them a part of your daily routine.

Understanding Meditation and Mindfulness

While many people use the terms meditation and mindfulness interchangeably, Bailey does not. Bailey explains that when you meditate, you focus on a single thing and bring your attention back to it when your mind wanders. When you practice mindfulness, you pay attention to everything you experience in a given moment. For example, if you wash dishes mindfully, you pay attention to everything that happens moment-by-moment, like how the water feels on your skin or how it sounds as it hits the sink.

In both meditation and mindfulness, you regularly refocus your attention. But when you meditate, you refocus your attention on a single task—like breathing. Practicing mindfulness is not about focusing on a single thing but about noticing your current circumstances and directing your attention to whatever you’re currently doing instead of letting your mind wander away. (Shortform note: Other people also distinguish between meditation and mindfulness, but their definitions differ from Bailey’s. For example, mindfulness expert Elisha Goldstein defines meditation as intentionally doing something good for yourself and mindfulness as a general awareness of your circumstances. She refers to what Bailey calls practicing mindfulness—purposefully noticing what you experience in a given moment—as “mindfulness meditation.”)

Incorporating Meditation and Mindfulness Into Your Daily Life

So how, exactly, can you reap the benefits of both meditation and mindfulness? Bailey urges you to make both a daily habit.

To meditate, sit down and focus on your breathing for a given amount of time each day. For best results, Bailey encourages you to start small: Meditate only for an amount of time that feels easy. He also encourages trying guided meditations with apps like Headspace. To practice mindfulness, Bailey encourages to pick a single daily task and be mindful during it. In other words, notice everything that happens as you do that task. For best results, choose a task that occupies very little working memory, like eating a meal. 

Your mind will wander a lot during both practices—but don’t beat yourself up if it takes a long time for you to notice! After all, researchers suggest that the brain regions that notice your mind wandering are the same regions involved when your mind wanders to begin with. Similarly, Bailey cautions against judging any thoughts you have too harshly. Just because a thought pops into your head doesn’t mean that it’s true or that you believe it. 

More Than Attention: Meditation’s Other Benefits

In addition to improving your working memory capacity, there are several other reasons to regularly practice meditation and mindfulness.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century suggests that meditation is critical for success because it’s the best way to understand your own mind, namely your thoughts, fears, and desires. By understanding your own mind, through which you interpret and react to the world, you can choose your actions more wisely and execute them more effectively. The same text adds that meditating makes you realize how little control you have over your thoughts—and that realization is the first step to gaining control over your thoughts.

Practicing meditation and mindfulness may also be good for your health. Several studies examining the relationship between a mindfulness practice and various medical issues have shown promising results. For example, mindfulness may help treat coronary disease and slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. 
Meditation and Mindfulness: How to Get Started

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Chris Bailey's "Hyperfocus" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Hyperfocus summary :

  • Why it's just as important to learn how to manage your attention, along with your time
  • Why you still feel tired no matter how many breaks you take
  • Strategies for managing your attention for better productivity and creativity

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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