Mindfulness vs Concentration: What’s the Difference?

  • By: Ryan Kane
  • Updated: February 25, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

When you’re struggling to study late at night, or watching your thoughts run wild as you try to work in the afternoon, you’re missing one thing:

Concentration.

Concentration is the act of narrowing the focus of your attention. Higher levels of concentration can lead to getting more done. And more attention means higher quality of output.

Concentration is important in mindfulness and meditation, but the concepts aren’t the same. But what’s the difference between the two?

In this article, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between mindfulness and concentration, as well as why you should start a mindfulness practice to improve your powers of concentration.

How is mindfulness different from concentration?

The main difference between mindfulness and concentration is that mindfulness is a non-judgmental way of being aware of what’s happening in the present moment, while concentration is the act of focusing on a specific task or object.

With mindfulness, you’re often not focusing on a single thing. Instead, you’re letting your attention sit more widely while anchoring yourself in the present moment. You can do this while focusing on something like your breath, or the sensations of your body. Mindfulness allows you to be open to new experiences and let go of any preconceived notions or judgments about those experiences.

Concentration, on the other hand, involves focusing on one thing. When concentrating, you actively maintain focus on a single experience, and there is oftentimes a goal associated.

However, as we’ll discuss below, there are also forms of mindfulness that make extensive use of concentration to build the muscles of awareness.

Does mindfulness help you focus?

Yes.

Mindfulness encourages you to stay in the present moment. When you’re in the present moment, you’re able to better focus on the task at hand.

Meditation, among other mindfulness techniques, is a way to train your attention to come back to the present moment. The point of this skill isn’t just to make you better equipped to meditate. It carries over to other aspects of your daily life. When your attention has been trained via meditation, you are better able to focus on what you’re doing in the moment each day.

Mindfulness trains you to stay in the present moment and also to hold your attention on one thing instead of letting it wander. Both of these skills improve focus.

What is concentrative meditation?

One form of meditation is mindfulness meditation, in which you keep a wide awareness while anchoring yourself in the present, and observe any thoughts that arise nonjudgmentally.

Concentrative meditation emphasizes the concentration of attention. With this meditation technique, you focus on a single object in the present moment, like the inhalation and exhalation of your breath. Another common form of concentrative meditation is candle meditation, in which you focus your attention on the flickering of a candle’s flame. As other thoughts arise, you release them and bring your attention back to the candle.

Concentrative meditation can oftentimes be a good avenue for beginners, as having a sensory point of focus can help keep the mind from excessive wandering. As you continue your practice, you’ll be able to focus for longer periods.

Here’s how mindfulness and concentration can help you

You might be aiming to improve your own productivity, performance or ability to focus.

If so, concentration is the obvious first step. Concentration allows you to get more done. When your concentration is high, your ability to focus on a task and see it through to the end is improved. Close attention leads to higher quality output.

How can you improve your concentration? There are a number of ways to do this, including brain-training games, sleep and exercise.

Mindfulness can help, too.

A 2019 study from MIT suggested that academic performance can be enhanced with mindfulness training.

Researchers found that more mindfulness means better academic performance, fewer suspensions from school, and less stress.

“By definition, mindfulness is the ability to focus attention on the present moment, as opposed to being distracted by external things or internal thoughts. If you’re focused on the teacher in front of you, or the homework in front of you, that should be good for learning,” says John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research.”

If you’re looking for ways to get more done and improve the quality of your performance, mindfulness is a proven tool to help you improve your concentration by remaining focused on the present moment and improving the strength of your attention.

FAQs

Is mindfulness good for concentration?

Yes, mindfulness is good for concentration. When you’re mindful, you’re able to focus on the task at hand and stay in the present moment. This allows you to better focus and be productive.

Can meditation increase concentration?

There is a lot of research that supports the idea that meditation can indeed increase concentration. When you meditate, you’re training your attention to focus on one thing and stay there. This concentration skill carries over into other aspects of your life. Over time, you’ll be able to focus for longer periods of time and be less easily distracted.

Is concentration the same as meditation?

There is some overlap between concentration and meditation. However, concentration typically has a goal associated with it, whereas meditation is more about observing your experience and letting go of any preconceived notions or judgments. Additionally, concentration usually involves actively maintaining focus, while meditation allows for a more open and accepting attitude towards thoughts and experiences. An exception is concentrative meditation, which is a form of meditation in which you maintain focus on a single object of attention.

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