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Updated on:

December 11, 2023

Meditation is an umbrella term for a wide variety of practices. Beneath this umbrella, practices include (but are not limited to) loving-kindness meditation, mindfulness meditation, mantra meditation, and affirmation meditation.

Some meditations involve a blend of practices, which can lead to confusion about what is what. Two types of meditation that are often combined but that are distinct practices are affirmation meditation and mindfulness meditation. In this article, we explore the similarities and differences between these two practices.

Whether you’re a personal meditation practitioner or meditation teacher, being able to differentiate between practices is helpful. As a practitioner, it helps you be intentional about what you’re practicing and why. As a teacher, it helps you to gain clarity around what you offer to your students. Let’s dive in to discover how these practices differ and how they overlap.

meditation vs affirmations, Affirmations and Mindfulness: Understanding the Difference

Affirmations vs. Mindfulness: Key Differences

Let’s start by taking a look at the core principles of these two distinct practices.

First, we have affirmation meditation. An affirmation (within the context of meditation) is a positive statement that reinforces something we want to feel, embody, or believe. Examples include: 

  • I am worthy of love and happiness.
  • The world supports and nurtures me.
  • I am wise, aware, and resilient.

Affirmation meditation uses one or more positive statements as the focus of our practice. Often, the technique is to repeat these statements internally and to feel their energy within both mind and body. The goal? To hardwire these positive beliefs into who we are, cultivating a positive mindset.

On the other hand, mindfulness is about non-judgmental, moment-to-moment awareness. It’s not about trying to feel a certain way. Rather, it’s about opening to what is right here, right now - with care and curiosity.

Mindfulness meditation is a formal practice of sitting with ‘what is’. It’s about cultivating caring, curious awareness of any aspect of our experience - such as breathing, the physical body, our thoughts, or our emotions. The goal? To strengthen our capacity to reside in the present moment.

When we examine the core principles, practice, and goals of each meditation outlined above, we can start to understand the difference. Affirmation meditation is about cultivating or affirming a positive thought or experience, whereas mindfulness is about cultivating awareness of whatever our experience is - right now.

Though affirmation meditation can be used to reaffirm what’s already present, it is most often future-oriented. It has us asking: Where do I want to go? Who do I want to be? What do I want to embody?

In mindfulness meditation, we may become aware of future-oriented thoughts, but we don’t take action on them. We notice whatever is here. We notice as things come and as things go, remaining anchored in the present moment.

The Overlapping Ground: Similarities

While these two practices are fundamentally different in their purpose and technique, there are a few similarities. Consider the following points of overlap between mindfulness meditation and affirmation meditation:

  • Focused Awareness: Both of these practices require some degree of focused awareness. With affirmation meditation, the focus is on repeating positive statements. With mindfulness meditation, the focus is on the present moment.

    Within mindfulness meditation, there is also a practice called ‘open awareness’ or ‘open monitoring’. In this type of practice, awareness remains open to whatever arises in one’s consciousness. Yet still, the intention is to stay with the present moment (or to come back to it when the mind wanders).
  • Personal Growth: Mindfulness meditation and affirmation meditation can both support our personal growth and development. They are tools that can help us to learn more about who we are and highlight areas where we have room to grow.
  • Self-Awareness: When affirmation meditation is practiced with curiosity, it can enhance our awareness of the thoughts and beliefs we hold. Mindfulness meditation can also cultivate this awareness. Both can be used to help us be more aware of our conditioned ways of thinking.
  • Potential for Positive Outcomes: While positive benefits cannot be guaranteed, both mindfulness meditation and affirmation meditation can support our inner wellbeing. They may help to reduce stress, enhance self-esteem and self-compassion, and increase emotional awareness and equanimity.
meditation vs affirmations, Affirmations and Mindfulness: Understanding the Difference

Combining Affirmations and Mindfulness

Many people who meditate feel drawn towards both affirmations and mindfulness - and that’s great! These two techniques can be interwoven beautifully, helping us to be both fully attuned to this moment and work with our dreams of the future.

Here are three ways to combine affirmations and mindfulness:

1. Affirmations in the Body

As you’re repeating an affirmation, get curious about how it lands in your body. What do you notice? Are there any body parts that tug at your attention? Are there parts of your body where the affirmation feels deeply true? Others where there is uncertainty? Hold whatever you observe with care and curiosity.

2. Affirm the Present

Affirmations don’t have to be future-focused. They can remind us of what is already present and true for us. For example, you might work with a mindful affirmation such as:

  • This moment is enough.
  • I am awake and aware, in this present moment.
  • I breathe with ease and presence.

3. Mindfulness of Room to Grow

A third way to incorporate mindfulness and affirmations is to start with the former before moving to the latter. In other words, use mindfulness meditation to bring caring curiosity to recurring thought patterns. Note the thought patterns that do not serve your growth and wellbeing. For a short while in formal mindfulness meditation, don’t try to change them. Let them be. Then, choose an affirmation that would help you to ‘try on’ a positive thought to counter the limiting one. 

For instance, if you notice that you’re often doubting your ability to overcome challenges, hold this recognition in your awareness with care and curiosity. Then, you might work with an affirmation such as “I am resilient and can overcome all obstacles.”

Common Misconceptions About Mindfulness and Affirmations

When practicing either mindfulness or positive affirmations, it is helpful to be aware of common misconceptions related to both practices. These are three of them:

  • Quick Fixes: Neither mindfulness nor affirmation practice is a quick (or guaranteed) solution to personal challenges. The things we carry inside of us can take time to transform. Be patient on the journey of personal transformation - and be willing to change course if needed. Seek professional mental health support if needed.
  • One-Size-Fits-All: We are all on a unique journey, and different things will support us at different times. If one practice feels more supportive for you than another, honor that. This can change overtime. Also, be mindful that what works for you might not work for someone else. Honor other people’s journeys just as much as you honor your own.
  • Religious or Spiritual: Mindfulness practice and affirmation repetition can hold religious or spiritual significance - if that resonates for you. However, they don’t have to. Both are used in various spiritual traditions and settings, but you can also practice them independently of any particular faith.
meditation vs affirmations, Affirmations and Mindfulness: Understanding the Difference

Summing Up

As you continue down a meditative path (or as you look to begin one), understanding the differences and similarities between mindfulness and affirmations can help you be more intentional about your practice. If you teach meditation, this awareness can help you to lead others with greater clarity and precision.

Remember that there’s no right or wrong practice to commit to. What matters is that you are practicing techniques that serve you and those around you. Your practice of preference may change overtime - or you can weave your favorite practices together. Let your journey be as unique as you are - and flexible to the unfolding road ahead.

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About the author 

Gillian Florence Sanger is a writer, meditation teacher, and certified hypnotherapist in Depth Hypnotherapy. She finds inspiration, insight, and solace most readily during her walks in the woods. Gillian has roots in Toronto but currently lives in the Swedish countryside.