How Long Should You Meditate For?
It’s no secret that meditation brings a lot of benefits. Monks, yogis, and even scientists are recommending it to help reduce stress, increase focus, and improve pain management, among other advantages. But the question is: Does the amount of time you meditate affect how much you gain from it? The answer is yes, but there’s no “magic number” that universally defines the optimal length of practice. Even expert recommendations vary between as little as five minutes to as long as an hour (or more!).
Whether you only take a moment to meditate or carve out a whole part of your day for it, what matters is the quality of your meditation during that time and if it fulfills your intention for practice. Additionally, the question of how often you meditate may bear more weight in the benefits you can gain than how long you meditate at each session.
How Long Should You Meditate?
Meditation is a very personal experience. It encourages you to be more in tune with your thoughts, emotions, and intentions, and it’s a practice that zeroes in on the self. In that sense, you don’t need to base it on stringent rules created by others. It should be a practice that is tailored for you.
For starters, you can try doing a one or two-minute session, keeping in mind that your mind might not be set for long meditation just yet, especially if you’re an absolute beginner. Once you become accustomed to mindful meditation, you can begin building it into longer runs until you reach a length that fulfills your purpose for meditation, one that’s enjoyable, yet still challenging. That said, even if you meditate only five minutes a day, it will still bring you great benefits when done regularly.
Many examples of options can be found. A practice of 40 to 45 minutes daily is recommended in Jon Zabat-Kinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) method, 20 minutes twice a day is suggested in the Transcendental Meditation (TM) tradition, and a series of 10 to 15 minute stretches multiple times a day is practiced by Tibetan monks. Your practice may be whatever is recommended by your best online meditation program.
If you want to work towards meditating for long periods of time, do consult a meditation coach to make sure you’re doing it safely. Be cautious, though, because you can meditate too much. And over-meditation can bring negative effects such as dissociation, increased anxiety, and addiction. The rule of thumb is, if it feels too much, then it probably is. Take that as a sign to draw it back a little bit until you find your comfort level.
How Often Should You Meditate?
Perhaps what’s just as important as the length of meditation is the frequency of your practice. The benefits of meditation are cumulative; they’re a result of consistent practice, whether that’s daily, every other day, or twice a week. This is where time comes in again. When deciding your optimal length of meditation, you should choose one that’s sustainable. A one-hour meditation practice that can’t be done regularly (e.g. you do it one day, skip it for five days, and worry about all that time lost) won’t get you the results you want as well as a 10-minute session that you can commit to every day.
When Should You Meditate?
Some experts recommend meditating at sunrise or sunset, both because it’s believed that the energy of the universe is at its most spiritual and because these periods are typically moments of peace. But this isn’t a hard rule. Whether you meditate before or after a workout, after you wake up, or before you go to bed, etc., what’s important is that you set yourself up for high-quality practice. You can do this by being in a comfortable position in a quiet environment where you are free of distractions, a place where you can freely and openly tune in to yourself.
Conclusion: Quality and Consistency Are Key.
Meditation is really about quality, not quantity. Even a short meditation, when done mindfully and regularly, can reap the scientifically-backed benefits that the practice promises. When starting a meditation practice, make sure that you set one that works for you, your time, your limits, and your environment. Make it something that is fulfilling yet challenging, something that you can perform regularly. Assess it by asking yourself if it satisfies your goals for the practice. And trust that if the answer is yes, then the practice is what’s right for you.
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