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Glob Adv Health Med. 2020 Feb 5;9:2164956120905597. doi: 10.1177/2164956120905597. eCollection 2020.

A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation.

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Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
Mongan Institute Health Policy Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
Department of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, District of Columbia.
Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio.


Mind-body medicine is an evidence-based approach to health and healing that focuses on interactions between the mind, body, and behavior. It encompasses a wide range of interventions that are similar yet different in meaningful ways. Mindfulness and relaxation practices are 2 mind-body techniques that have similarities and differences; however, these techniques are often used or discussed interchangeably, such that the differences between them become obscured. A greater understanding of the unique facets of mindfulness and relaxation is needed for researchers and clinicians to make informed decisions when selecting an approach. The purpose of the current article is to offer an evidence-informed perspective on similarities and differences between mindfulness and relaxation. Specifically, mindfulness and relaxation practices are compared and contrasted in terms of theoretical foundation, intention, and psychological and physiological effects and mechanisms. Implications for clinical practice and suggestions for future research are discussed.


health; mindfulness; mind–body; relaxation; well-being

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