How Long Should I Meditate for the Best Results? Is Longer Better?
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You may have just started meditation, and you may be wondering “How long should I meditate?” or “How can I meditate longer so that I can feel calmer?”
I started practicing meditation a year ago to cope with anxiety, and it has been the most powerful tool amongst everything else I’ve ever tried for my mental health.
It took for a while for me to get started with my meditation journey because I had certain image about meditation like, “I need to sit for an hour without getting distracted.”
If you think of meditation like I used to, you’re not alone.
Jon Kabat-Zinn says,
“Note that this journey is uniquely yours, no one else’s. So the path has to be your own.
You cannot imitate somebody else’s journey and still be true to yourself. Are you prepared to honor your uniqueness in this way?”
Does this make sense?
There may be many meditation advocates or masters teaching you to meditate in a certain way, but there is no “perfect” way to meditate. Everyone’s journey is unique.
Are you ready to get started with your meditation journey?
Don’t worry, I’m here to answer basic questions you may have concerning meditation.
Let’s dive in!
How long should you meditate to see some results?
So here is the question. Is there any ideal length of time to achieve the best results?
A lot of experts including Metta McGarvey, PhD , who teaches mindfulness class at a Harvard University, recommend 10 minutes a day.
Are you interested in hearing what 10-minutes of meditation time a day can do to change your mind?
A study published on Behaviour Brain Research gathered non-experienced meditators aged between 18-45 years old, and one group listened to a podcast for 13 minutes every day. The other group practiced guided meditation for 13 minutes.
They found out that participants’ negative mood, attention, working memory, and anxiety level improved after the 8-week of experiment. Interestingly, 4-week participant group didn’t show as much improvement compared to the 8-week group.
Here is the thing.
You may think, “let’s meditate 13 minutes a day for 8 weeks and become a mindful person!”
But it doesn’t work that way.
Why is that?
It’s because mindfulness practice is as same as weight training. If you don’t keep going to the gym, you lose muscle! So, if you don’t meditate daily, you can’t expect the results you are looking for.
If you are a beginner, it may be challenging to start with 10 minutes. So, does that mean you can’t get the benefits from it?
Even a daily 3-minute meditation can make a huge difference. For the first three months I started meditation, I only meditated 1-3 minutes a day and I experienced many many differences.
How long does it take to learn meditation?
In the modern world, we are always busy mastering our skills or learning a new thing. So how can we perfect our regular meditation practice?
I had the exact question before I started my mindfulness practice journey.
Because I wanted to know more about meditation, I started taking a course by Jon Kabat-Zinn on Masterclass, and I gained a new perspective from him.
Jon explained meditation is not about mastering its skill. It’s not like you have to go to the Himalayas and become a monk to become a master of meditation.
Jon defines mindfulness as
“…awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”
He also said in the masterclass that meditation practices are not about “perfecting”. You are already WHOLE, you are already PERFECT, you just need to learn how to access to mindfulness.
I would say the more you practice meditation, the more you will improve at being aware of your emotions and finding solutions. However, if you are not consistent with it like I said, your awareness won’t stick with you!
Mindfulness is not about mastering another skill, but learning the mindset can be helpful. I have some resources for you!
- Check out my guide about meditation mindset for beginners
- Read Jon Kabat Zinn’s book – Wherever you go, there you are (I read this book and LOVED it!)
- Take Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Masterclass
- Take this free MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction ) 8-week course created by Jon Kabat Zinn
- Recommended free guided meditation app (I wrote a review of insight timer!)
How can I meditate longer as a beginner?
As a beginner, it may be hard to sit still for 10 minutes or longer. Don’t worry. It’s very normal not to be able to sit longer.
We are all busy thinking about what to do next or worrying about the future. So sitting even for a couple of minutes doing nothing can feel unsettling at first.
Maybe you have an image of meditation as sitting still without getting distracted.
I felt the same way to at first, and it stopped me from getting started because I felt it was SO hard not to get distracted during a longer meditation.
However, setting a goal of not getting distracted is unrealistic and makes you feel dissatisfied after a meditation session.
The main point of meditation isn’t about getting distracted, but to become conscious of bringing back your mind when any thought arises and recognizing it when it happens.
So here is the question. How can you meditate for longer periods?
The answer is to start short. Start with a 1-minute meditation. Once you are comfortable with it, lengthen it to 3 minutes. Then 5 minutes, 8 minutes, to 10 minutes!
For me, I was able to meditate up to 30 minutes a year after I starting my meditation practice. But hey, each person is different so take as much time as you need to be comfortable with long meditation sessions!
I mentioned my favorite meditation app earlier. With insight timer, you can search meditation tracks by their length. This is a great way to teach yourself how to meditate longer. Handy right?
When should you meditate?
Now, you may be wondering when should you meditate. Well, meditating at different times of the day brings you different benefits, so let me share some facts with you.
You may often hear, “Start your day with meditation” or see health conscious people meditate every morning.
Why is that?
It’s because if you meditate first thing in the morning, you can set the tone for the day, and possibly help you lower your stress level throughout the day! When you meditate in the morning, you will be more aware of your emotions, so when you are stressed or anxious during the day, you are more likely to notice it and take action!
So how about other times in the day?
Another effective time to meditate is before sleep and in the afternoon. Why afternoon?
Have you ever felt overwhelmed from the endless tasks at work? When you are in the situation, you may feel like there are million different things to do and you will never finish them.
This is when meditation can play an important role! You can close your laptop, open a meditation app, and meditate for a few minutes. You CAN take a mini break even when you are super busy!
In fact, it’s more effective to take a break. Once you finish your meditation, try writing down all the tasks you need to work on right now and prioritize them. In this way, you can focus on less things for now!
Another desired time to meditate is before sleep. Sometimes, you may have difficulties going to sleep thinking about all the things you need to do tomorrow or what happened today.
If you go to bed with all your anxiety and worries, you may end up being up for hours!
So what can we do?
You can either meditate before going to sleep or meditate as you fall asleep. Although meditation before sleep can increase your sleep quality, if you choose to meditate before bed time, I recommend not bringing your phone with you to bed.
This happened to me in the past, and if you bring your phone with you, you may spend hours scrolling your phone after the meditation! So meditate 5-10 minutes before sleep and plug your phone in somewhere unreachable.
You can also meditate as you fall asleep. I use a wave-free meditation device called morphee and I listen to some guided meditations and nature sounds.
Make sure to check out my article if you are struggling to sleep due to stress or anxiety. I gathered 10+ holistic tips to fall asleep fast!
Is a 3 minute meditation session long enough?
It’s always better to meditate even if it’s short, especially if you are a beginner or you are super busy. I used to skip my meditation simply because I didn’t feel I could spare 10 minutes.
However, I realized I usually feel worse if I skip my meditation ritual when things are stressful or difficult.
Let me explain why even a 3-minute meditation can do you good!
As you breathe deeply, your brain receives a message to calm down and relax. When you are under stress, your body will experience increased heart rate, high blood pressure and fast breathing. So breathing slowly can definitely help you manage your stress response.
If you are still doubtful about what 3 minutes meditation can do for you, just try it out! Do it for a week and see how you feel! 🙂
Ultimate question: Is longer better?
You may end up quitting meditation if you only practice meditation for long periods of time.
The most important thing is to meditate consistently, as short as 3 minutes a day.
A lot of people expect themselves to feel calmer or better after meditation, but if you do so, you may be putting some pressure on yourself!
Why is that?
As Jon Kabat-Zinn says
“You’ll get caught up in wanting to have a “special experience” or in looking for signs of progress, and if you don’t feel something special pretty quickly, you may start to doubt the path you have chosen, or to wonder whether you are “doing it right.”
Mindfulness is about accepting who you are, what you are feeling as it is, and focusing on the present moment non-judgmentally.
By getting used to focusing on the present moment, you will able to decrease the noise in your head. So it’s ideal to drop your expectations and just go with the flow.
Don’t forget this mindset and enjoy your mindfulness journey!