Is being Mindful and Relaxed the same thing?
The short answer is “no”.
Simply put, being mindful is being aware, and being relaxed is to be free of tension.
Relaxation is mostly a phenomenon of the autonomic nervous system.
While getting relaxed the tone of your sympathetic nervous -fight or flight- system goes down and the parasympathetic system goes up.
It has a lot of physiological effects that you feel; your muscles get relaxed, blood flow being more directed into your gastrointestinal tracts, maybe feeling warm, less painful and tense, etc.
Whereas being mindful is to become aware of how you are feeling physically, emotionally, mentally, and increasing awareness of your environment.
Mindfulness is an attentional state...You are bringing your attention to something.
And in this case, it’s your self, your body and it may or may not be relaxed.
You can be aware of relaxed, you can be aware of tense, you can be aware of in pain, you can be aware of angry.
Mindfulness is not relaxation but relaxation is a side effect of the mindfulness practice.
In the first couple of weeks in a mindfulness class, most people report falling asleep during the practices of the body scan in class or during homework.
You lie down, close your eyes, and listening to the audio file, you go through the body at a slow pace. The automatic reaction in the body is ‘oohh it is time to go to sleep’. Because if you think about it, experiencing relaxation while staying alert is not something that we are in the habit of.
‘Restful Alertness’ -to be able to keep the mind clear and sharp, while the body is at ease- is a lovely experience that comes over time with practice.