Meditation can become an integral part of any lifestyle or routine.
While it might seem like a big undertaking for those that aren’t familiar with the practice, meditation can be applied in numerous ways – regardless of how much time or experience you have.
Whether you’re new at this or have some meditation experience behind you, many people are starting to ask, “how long and how often should I meditate?”
If you’re in this group of people, intrigued by the benefits that meditation has to offer but unsure of where or for how long to start, you’re not alone.
Millions of people have embraced this ancient practice and millions more are thinking about it right now; but it’s not as simple as it sounds to get started.
One of the biggest obstacles that people face when first beginning to meditate is the length of time it requires.
How much meditation is enough and how often should we be meditating?
There is really no set answer as to how long someone must meditate to begin experiencing the benefits of this practice.
It all depends on the personal needs that must be met, how much time is available, and what kind of environment the meditation practice occurs within.
Length of meditation is important, but so is the quality of the meditation.
Meditating for 45 minutes with constant interruptions and distractions may not be as beneficial as meditating for 15 minutes without any distractions.
Even a 5-minute meditation when practiced with focus and commitment can have similar benefits of longer sessions.
If you want to know how long you should be meditating, here are some helpful tips that can help you achieve the best results from your time.
Through exploring these, you will become better equipped to understand your own unique needs and to maximize the time that you do have to meditate, regardless of your personal schedule.
Always keep in mind that quality can outweigh quantity, so even when time is of the essence, meditation has something to offer you.
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#1. You Don’t Have to Meditate Just Once
How many times per day should you meditate?
I generally meditate for about 15 minutes per meditation session, twice per day.
Sometimes I feel called to meditate for longer periods of time, say between 30 and 45 minutes for each meditation session; however, I don’t usually meditate for longer than an hour in a single session.
This is what works for me, but dual daily meditation sessions may not be right for everyone.
You might prefer a single session in the morning or one after-work if that appeals more greatly to you.
You might also find that having more than two sessions in a day is a better structure for your particular needs.
So, there is no singular answer to the question, “how often should I meditate?”
This should provide some relief, knowing that there are numerous ways to go about it.
What’s nice about meditating is that whatever time you spend practicing this technique during the day is cumulative.
In other words, we are the sum of our efforts.
Meditating for 20 minutes 3x per day is equal to someone meditating just once but for a whole, consecutive 60 minutes.
This means you can fit meditation into the breaks you have in your schedule pretty easily.
Regardless of your particular lifestyle, it’s possible to fit meditation into the spaces where it best suits you.
If you get two 15-minute breaks at work during the day and an hour lunch break, you could meditate for 10 minutes during each of those break periods and wind up with 30 minutes of meditation time without any other changes to your routine.
If even a 10 minute meditation 3x daily feels to be too much for you right now, cut each session in half as you get used to the practice.
Even 5-minute meditations practiced regularly add up to something.
#2. You Shouldn’t Feel Pressured
Meditation helps to relieve stress, so the amount of time one meditates shouldn’t cause anxiety.
Instead of setting a specific time limit and time frames, you can experiment by allowing your meditation session to evolve naturally in its own time.
If you are a very structured person who depends on routines, having a 15-minute meditation session that works with your current schedule can be a good thing. Some of us need that structure.
On the other hand, if you’re a creative person who has an unstructured schedule, a 30-minute meditation session today and a 10-minute session tomorrow might be equally beneficial.
Can you allow for life’s flow and each day’s demands to guide you?
If you feel that you’re putting pressure on yourself to make it to a certain time while meditating, it is better to stop short of your time goal.
Spending the remaining minutes of any meditation session worrying about how much time has passed is not going to fuel your authentic growth.
It is okay to compassionately call it quits sometimes, so long as you are balancing effort and ease in the larger picture.
In sessions where you stop short of your goal, consider engaging in some mindful movement or stretching until the time is up.
Sometimes just meditating for four minutes, as long as they are an undisturbed four minutes, can be just what your mind and body needs.
Take your time to grow into and alongside this practice, remaining patient with the journey as it folds.
#3. Challenge Yourself
One of the most common reasons why meditation doesn’t happen or doesn’t last as long as it could is because we feel like we must meditate in a certain way in a certain place.
Even if unconsciously, we tend to hold preconceived notions about what meditation looks like.
We imagine someone sitting in the lotus position in a beautiful valley, surrounded by sunshine, as the birds sing tranquil tunes in the background.
In an ideal situation for an advanced practitioner, the lotus position does an excellent job of limiting physical distractions; however, every person is unique.
We each have different levels of abilities and individual preferences that we can allow to guide our practice.
There are many ways you can incorporate meditation into your daily habits, regardless of who you are and what your lifestyle is like.
Some people meditate in the shower, others opt for a morning meditation in bed, and some meditate during quiet walks through the forest.
There are no set rules here, so challenge yourself to try something new if you’re struggling to find time to meditate each day.
As you start to allow greater flexibility in how you define meditation, you might find yourself getting into a longer meditation time that better fits your needs.
#4. Set Realistic Expectations
There are two things that can prematurely kill a meditation session consistently: boredom and unrealistic expectations.
Boredom occurs most often because of the nature of our society.
We are constantly bombarded with stimulation and so struggle when all of that stimulation subsides.
From the burning desire to get through our emails and social feed, to watching our favorite TV shows, to overnight deliveries from our favorite online stores, we have been conditioned to want everything – right now.
Meditation doesn’t work that way.
It simply doesn’t play into that game.
In fact, it shines a light on this conditioning, and in doing so can make us pretty uncomfortable.
Although it only takes 4 days in a row of meditating for about 20 minutes each time to begin experiencing the physical benefits of this practice, this time period can feel like too long a time to wait for the mind that wants immediate satisfaction.
Why meditate when you can just drink a Red Bull and get stuff done?
Meditation requires a shift in our thinking.
Overcoming boredom and our unconscious yearning for distractions can be difficult.
Not only does it take willpower to be still, but there must also be an element of willingness.
If you’re not willing to let go of your distractions, your immediate gratifications, and your current lifestyle, then meditation isn’t going to be able to help much.
Now, the second category of meditation killers are the unrealistic goals we set for ourselves when first beginning to meditate.
Unconsciously, we once again imagine yogis and mystics sitting for hours on end in complete silence and stillness.
This, however, is a trap that can turn us off of meditating in the first place.
But it doesn’t need to! We are better off starting from where we are.
If you’re not used to dedicating 30 minutes 2x per day toward monitoring your breathing and listening to or labeling your innermost thoughts, a better goal would be to set expectations that are challenging though attainable.
Try 15 minutes 2x per day instead. Or try 5 minutes 3x per day.
Or, if the mind is really struggling with this new practice, stick to just 2 minutes once per day.
The ideal meditation length is the length of time that you actually are able to do.
Your preconceived notions might still have you wondering how to meditate for long periods of time.
However, when you start from where you are and gently release these preconceived notions of what your practice is ‘supposed’ to look like, your length of daily practice will naturally increase.
When your goal is to build up from this introductory level of meditation, as long as you do a little bit better each day, you’ll be well on your way to knowing what length of time is going to be right for you in the long run.
Allow this to evolve alongside your journey.
#5. Tag It On
Let’s say that part of your morning routine includes a 15-minute shower.
Guess what? You could spend 5 minutes getting clean and 10 minutes meditating.
Maybe you have an afternoon tea when you get home from work every day.
You’re already taking time for yourself.
Tag on your meditation session to this space in your day and you’ll likely get another 10 minutes.
You’ve just added 20 minutes of meditation to your schedule without much effort at all.
For those who really struggle to establish a consistent time of mediation every day, tagging it onto their already relaxing activities is a great way to make meditation enjoyable.
It eliminates the idea that you’re robbing yourself of personal time, gives you the chance to experience the benefits of meditation, and makes meditation enjoyable because you’re already doing something fun.
This approach also overcomes the concern we might have surrounding how to find time to meditate.
The time is already there; it just needs to be harnessed in the right way.
Bear in mind that there are some reasonable exceptions to this idea.
For instance, if you find driving fun, maybe don’t start meditating while you’re driving.
Be safe about how you tag meditation onto things.
Ensure that whatever time you choose is an appropriate time to tune out from the world around you.
In doing so, you might find that getting up to 1 hour of meditation 2x per day isn’t as hard as you originally thought it would be.
#6. The Style of Meditation Matters
When we discuss meditation, the idea that many people have is that there is this one general concept we’re talking about.
Everyone meditates in generally the same way… right?
There are many different types of meditation that can be individually practiced.
Out of that number, there are more than 20 different types that are regularly practiced today.
What is often pictured as the “only” type of meditation is called “Zen meditation.”
One thought or one task is examined at a time in a comfortable position.
When you’re told to focus on your breathing, this is Zen meditation.
This type of meditation needs a good 15 to 20 minutes once or twice per day for maximum benefit.
Another popular practice is mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of finding perfection in every moment we experience.
It asks us to be compassionately and non-judgmentally open to our experience – exactly as it is.
Tastes, sounds, and feelings are all part of this practice.
Mindfulness is one part attitude and one part meditation, so you could realistically practice this form all day long.
Loving Kindness meditation is another common form we encounter, which is more about giving than receiving.
Practitioners choose to look at the good moments of their lives and to then extend those feelings of wellbeing into blessings for their family and friends.
Mantra meditation is another interesting method and it works well for those who feel like they need to be doing something more than just sitting around and breathing for awhile.
A mantra is a single word, phrase, or series of words and phrases that are repeated over and over again.
Here’s a fun fact: saying the Catholic rosary is actually a form of mantra meditation.
Now here’s the best part of all this: you can pick and choose elements of any or all of these forms of meditation and all of the others not mentioned here to create your own unique style.
The best meditation technique will be the one that works for you.
Many people incorporate mantras into Zen meditation.
Practicing Loving Kindness meditation after mindfulness is also quite common.
It all depends on what you’re passionate about.
When you find your passion, you’ll find that the time requirements for meditation stop mattering so much.
Instead of meditation feeling like a job, it will come to feel more like part of your life story.
As your own unique meditation preference becomes second nature, you’ll stop wondering how to find time to meditate.
It will naturally become a part of who you are and what you stand for.
#7. What Is Your Purpose?
There are many reasons why people choose to embrace meditation.
Some want to lower their stress levels.
Others are looking to tap into their deep creative centers and potential.
Others meditate to follow the subtle call to connect to something greater than themselves.
These are all specific ways to describe what the overall purpose of meditation happens to be: to find your balance.
Finding your personal balance depends on what is going on in your life at present.
If life is pretty stress-free because you are playing video games throughout the day, having takeout provided for free at night, and someone is paying all your expenses, then you may not feel the need for meditation.
Your life is pretty much already in a balanced zone.
For someone working 10 hours days, cooking dinner at home every night, taking the kids to school every morning, and scheduling doctor appointments between soccer practice, gymnastics, and trying to clean the house, something is out of balance.
More time with meditation will be required to achieve the best results possible the further out of balance you are.
So how long do you have to meditate to see results?
It’s an interesting question at this key point.
Think about what your life has going on.
For every hour you don’t get to take time for yourself, a good rule of thumb is to give yourself 5 minutes of meditation to help balance things out.
For the ‘10-hour day’ working parent with 2 additional hours of responsibilities, 12×5 = 60 minutes of meditation for balance.
Again, this can be broken up into increments throughout the day.
For the person living at home with no responsibilities except the 20 minutes it takes them to prepare breakfast and lunch, then 2 minutes of meditation per day might be enough to achieve greater balance.
A word of caution: if you are putting in days that are longer than 12 hours of hard work, then sleep may be more important than meditation at the end of the day.
You know your body best, so honor it in whatever way it calls to you.
If your life is currently this hectic, try to make time for morning meditation instead.
Otherwise you might find yourself falling asleep as you count your breaths.
Morning meditation can also help you to find the inner balance and footing you need to move through your busy day with peace in mind.
#8. Can You Meditate Too Much?
The answer to this is “sometimes.”
It all depends on what is going on in one’s personal life.
If there are some emotional instability issues because some locked away issues are seeing the light of day, the benefits of meditation could be unraveling too quickly.
We all lock painful memories away, but suppressing these memories does not make them go away.
They stick around until we’re ready to begin dealing with them.
As meditation unveils what we have hidden away within our subconscious, we need to take our time and remain compassionate with the slowly unfolding journey of healing.
Adequate integration time is necessary for us to process our emotional baggage in healing and helpful ways.
This means the length of time you meditate for is subject to change.
Listen to your needs as insights and emotions arise, knowing that there are numerous ways to self-care when meditation is exposing too much too soon.
If 15 minutes of meditation is causing you to cry more, to get angry more, or makes you lose your conscious focus, try knocking it down to 10 minutes to see if your balance improves.
You might also try a different approach to meditation in these cases.
If Zen meditation is causing emotion uprisings, consider mantra meditation or Loving Kindness meditation (and vice versa).
Maybe I’ve created more questions than answers for you today.
Because I can’t give you a definitive answer to the question, “how many minutes a day should you meditate?”
It would be nice to say, “Meditate for 20 minutes twice per day and you’ll experience awesome results!”
It is entirely possible this could happen, but it is also possible that it could be too much time or too little time, depending on your unique needs at present.
The first step in deciding how much meditation is enough is to determine the type or types of meditation you intend to practice.
Then, consider how out of balance your life happens to be right now when it comes to taking time for yourself.
Combine those two components together and you’ll begin to create the recipe needed to determine how long you should meditate to receive the best possible results.
Listen to your body and you’ll find the answer that works best for you.
Allow yourself to experiment, perhaps taking a week or a month to explore different techniques and for varying lengths of time throughout the day.
The more you get to know yourself through this ancient practice, the closer you’ll come to determining your ideal meditation time – one that is entirely suited to you.
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