If you’re picking up meditation or in the process of doing so, one popular question that pops up on your mind would be “how long should you meditate?”, Because the notion of spending months sitting on your meditation cushion with nothing to show could be pretty discouraging.
While it’s true that meditation is often picked up as a religious practice in certain cultures, but meditation has also been associated with numerous health benefits, and provenly so. It is only natural that you’ll be having expectations for your own practice.
In my previous post, Ellie, a mother of two asked also shared the same curiosity. My answer to her was it generally takes one to two months before you can actually ‘feel’ improvements emotionally or mentally. I’m definitely speaking from my point of view, and that lead me to seek out more information on how long meditation sessions should really be for new practitioners.
Let’s take a look at some hard proven fact before we check out the experience of other meditators.
If you read my post on the 31 benefits of meditation, you would notice that I dedicated a section on how it changes our brain structure. I think the best way to backup verbal testimonial is to have some scientific images of meditator’s brain before and after meditation.
This is a result of a study performed by Harvard University where 16 people are given an 8-weeks mindfulness-based stress reduction practice. The people in this group are required to do an average 27 minutes of guided mindfulness meditation and other mindfulness practice every day.
Here’s what happen after 8 weeks of mindfulness practice. Gray matter volume increases in the brain region related to learning and memory, emotion regulation, sense of self, and perspective taking. For more details of this study, read this article by Dr. Kevin Chen).
It’s one thing to meditate for weeks for the sake of feeling more peaceful or creating more joy. But let’s take a look if the positive effect of meditation is still as effective when it comes to treating common mental disorders like anxiety.
Meditation has been known to helped relieve anxiety attack, when practiced under the guidance of therapist or meditation teachers. Anxiety disorder is becoming more common among global populations and it will be interesting to find out how effective is meditation as a self-help treatment.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center conducted a specific study to study the areas of the brain that were activated and deactivated during meditation-related anxiety relief.
The study found that the anterior cingulate cortex, a primary region believed to relieve anxiety, was activated when subjects participated in four 20 minutes sessions of mindfulness meditation.
While the result may not always be identical, this particular anxiety sufferer managed to stop the anxiety attacks after just two weeks of practicing meditation.
When asked the question of “how long should I meditate” by practitioners, Bodhipaksa of Wildmind Buddhist Meditation stated that “any amount of meditation is better than none”. Here’s the full article.
Giovanni Dientsmann of LiveAndDare started with 20 minutes of meditation every day.
In, Mindfulness In Plain English, by Bhante Gunaratana, beginners are advised to start with 20-30 minutes session and gradually extend it to an hour after a year.
If you find 20 minutes of meditation difficult when you’re starting out, it’s ok to start with 5-10 minutes, according to Morgan Dix, who’s been meditating for more than 20 years.
You should sit in meditation for 20 minute every day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for 1 hour. – Zen.
With the hectic lifestyle that most of us are used to, it could be tough to spare even 5 minutes to meditate. (Or it could be an excuse that we are giving ourselves.
While it is entirely possible that 5 minutes of meditation each day could result in positive well-being, some of us could need more than that before actually going into the ‘meditation state’.
A Headspace apps user commented that increasing meditation session from 10 to 20 minutes resulting in a positive experience.
Here’s what happened when for the first 10 minutes when you start your first few meditation session.
This may sound unpopular but the first 10 minutes is what it takes to “warm-up” a beginner’s mind for meditation. Your mind needs time to slow down the thoughts and calm down the jumble of emotions you’re experiencing.
When you are meditating for at least 15 minutes per session, that’s when you will start to see progress in your meditation journey.
You just read that it takes around 1 to 2 months for you to enjoy the benefits of meditation. Or 2 weeks if you’re doing everything great. And you know you need to do at least 15 minutes a day for meditation to get anything out of it.
That said, it’s important not to force yourself into meditating. Don’t turn your meditation into a series of thoughts like “Is it 10 minutes already? or 5?” and keep having the urge to look at the clock.
That’s not meditating. It’s purely thinking. And it’s one of the common obstacles that new meditators find themselves in.
If you’re just starting meditation, the Aware meditation app will be helpful in keeping you focused on your practice.
Over To You :
Did you hesitate to pick up meditation practice because you wonder if it would ever work out for you? Or have you been meditating 10 minutes daily without seeing results? Share your thoughts on your meditation experience here.
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