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Here’s How Long You Should Meditate To Get The Max Benefits


What the science says

Overall, researchers have identified five characteristics that determine the effectiveness of meditation practice:

  • instance or frequency of practice sessions
  • duration or length of time of practice
  • adherence to practice instructions
  • competence, cultural relevance, and understanding the context of why you practice
  • enjoyment

In a 2017 study, researchers found that participants responded with greater mindfulness to daily events on the days that they meditated. They also found that sticking with practice and practicing for longer periods had positive outcomes.

Another 2017 study found significant connections between duration of meditation practice and positive emotions.

A 2018 study of inexperienced meditators found that 8 but not 4 weeks of 13-minute daily meditation decreased negative mood, enhanced attention, improved memory, and decreased anxiety. This implies that repetition matters.

According to another 2018 study of Indian practitioners in the Brahma Kumaris Rajayoga (BKRY) tradition, researchers found that it was competence, not duration of practice, that determined whether meditation resulted in improved well-being.

Still, they did find some correlation of length of practice to measures of well-being.

What is meditation ‘competence?’

It’s important to note that competence or skill in meditation is by nature difficult to define.

In the study mentioned above of Indian practitioners, the researchers defined “proficiency” as how steeped the practitioners were in their particular school of thought.

In other words, understanding the context of what you’re practicing and why will improve meditation outcomes. The same is true when it comes to a sense of cultural or spiritual significance.

These characteristics aren’t usually what we consider being “skilled” at something. This may be fitting, because many meditation experts point to “beginner’s mind” as the way to be truly skilled at meditation.

In Zen Buddhism, the word shoshin, or beginner’s mind in Chinese, involves approaching a subject with openness, enthusiasm, and without preconceptions or judgments. This is the recommended way to approach meditation, even as an experienced practitioner.

In bringing “beginner’s mind” to every practice, you empty yourself of hoops to jump through or feelings of pride or unworthiness and simply sit in the present moment.

This “being with what is” is the essence of skillful meditation.

What’s the best length of time to meditate?

The above research implies that 13 minutes of meditation per session is enough to reap benefits. Still, regularity may be just as important.

Practicing for 13 minutes once every few months isn’t likely to yield as many benefits as practicing daily for 5 minutes.

In the end, there’s no “magic number” for how long to meditate.

What’s most important is that you choose a length of time that’s:

  • realistic
  • practical
  • replicable
  • enjoyable

How to find the right meditation for you

A 2017 study found that in a sample of 55 mildly stressed adults ages 50 to 80 years old, body scan, sitting meditation, and breathing exercises were the most popular practices.

No matter what kind of meditation you choose, it’s important that you enjoy it.

Here are few of the many types of meditation:

  • metta, or loving-kindness meditation
  • mantra meditation
  • spiritual meditation
  • focused meditation
  • walking meditation
  • transcendental meditation
  • visualization meditation

Finding what types of meditation practice work best for you is a matter of trial and error.

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