People who approach meditation as a temporary therapy soon find out that there is no limit to how long you should meditate to see results. This applies to how many months or years to meditate and how long to meditate per session.
The reason is twofold. Every person has different capabilities, issues to encounter, and other things to do in their everyday lives.
Both these reasons influence the day-to-day time each one has. The good thing is that meditation gives results every time you do it. Even little moments of peace (a few seconds) can happen and show you the applicability of meditation frequently. When you stop practicing, you can see lots of differences and drawbacks.
How Long Should You Meditate to See Results?
The general principle is to start with the amount of time you feel comfortable with and proceed accordingly. Eventually, the practice will drive you to meditate for more extended periods. Even a 10-minutes meditation has results.
Do not be disappointed. There is no practical value since there is no point in comparing your practice with someone else’s. It is not a competition of any kind but an internal process. It is only about you. So, take the time you need.
What The Science Says
Numerous studies show the benefits of meditation, even for short but consistent periods, and the numerous benefits. Even contemporary meditation apps (mostly relaxation and partially focus-helping apps) start with 5-10-15-20 minutes sessions.
Studies in 2017 and 2018 show the relation of meditation with kindness and positive emotions.
Indeed, meditation for short or more extended periods is a skills-building process. In their books about meditation, both Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh talk about the different stages to learn to focus and keep your attention for longer and then go deeper into meditating for getting deeper understandings and insights.
Practicing for up to 10-15 minutes per day will give you great results for the day. Gradually you will “ask” for more time to meditate, either on the same day or in the same session.
So, it just builds up. Some characteristics are common among practitioners (as the studies say). These are:
- The frequency of practicing
- The length of the practice
- Following the steps to relax and meditate
- Understanding why you practice
- If you enjoy practicing
Since you can indeed have feeling-good results from the first days and first sessions, keeping a consistent practice for weeks will enhance these results.
How Many Times a Day Should You Meditate?
Once per day is ideal, even for a short period. Allocating a specific time per day builds up a habit too. Of course, that is not the scope; to build habits.
However, in the beginning, it is beneficial for your commitment capability to see the excellent results (and the obstacles), which happens when you do something every day.
So, aim for doing it once. If you can do it more than once, that is fine too. Also, please read this article where we analyze the best time to meditate in more depth about different day periods (morning, afternoon, evening).
When To Expect Changes
Ah, this is the “million-dollar question,” asked mainly by “westerners.” The answer is simple. Nobody can tell precisely for another person. Also, what exactly do we mean with “results”?
A decision to explore meditation in your everyday life is by itself a kind of a change. That is an action that leads to a result; you sit quietly, observing your thoughts, seeing what happens. So, there is your first change and effect. It was fast, right?
In general, meditation shows cumulative results as you do it.
You will see that you are more relaxed, focused, and able to think clearer and not get annoyed by things that used to annoy you in the past easily.
As you do it, you will explore more of yourself and acknowledge more things about who you are and what you want.
All these usually take time, so it is best to think not about how long you should meditate as if it was some treatment with an expiration date, but as a journey. Many things will happen in that journey that will reveal lots about you. These things are what you are and think. So, it is normal for them to occur. Liking or disliking them has no practical value other than simply giving you the related information. Embrace them all if it is possible.
That information and the insights around it will set you free. Set you free.
Sometimes it will show as painful, and others will be liberating or a “miracle.” Everything is helpful.
Try different times and locations. Sometimes meditating outside can give you a different feeling and insights from a room. Other times meditating with a group is different from meditating alone. Walking meditation does exist.
It is lovely to need sitting for meditation but don’t aim to feel good. When you sit, expect no specific results. It is pointless and just another bunch of thoughts. Why add more thoughts to the -approximately- 50.000 thoughts that cross your mind every day?
So, the word “expect” is not accurate, as you can see. After some time, you may notice that the only “expectation” you may have is that you want to meditate since it makes you feel better and gives you all that information about yourself.
Why Do People Give Up On Meditation?
There is a misconception that sitting for meditation every day may be boring. Imagine just sitting there doing… nothing. It is not correct, of course. Meditation is a very active state, just not with the notion we think of as “being active.”
So, the case is here is -again- twofold. Some people start and get bored or frustrated and stop, while others start thinking of it as something not interesting. Sure, all things stand, and judging one or the other or anything as good or bad means nothing to you.
It is challenging to sit and meditate and not have second thoughts for a long time. Despite the benefits you notice, daily life can overwhelm these and confuse you.
When people start noticing the reality of things and phenomena, that may not feel “liberating” but frustrating, and many are not ready to deal with revelations like that. Others don’t feel ready to deal with their inner states and thoughts, and they might find them disturbing or annoying.
Others are afraid of change, and that is not condemnable. We all are fearful of various things on some level.
Seeing things and dealing with them needs a bit of courage, especially when we are constantly conditioned to see things as others project them to us.
So, there are many reasons people abandon it for some periods or permanently, despite the apparent effects. Those beneficial effects can lead to such abandonment for the reasons we mentioned.
All are part of life, and many who have seen the profound benefits of meditation do seek it and return to it until dropping it again and so on until they decide to establish a more systematic practice process.
Summing it up
There is no clear answer on how long should you meditate, and at the same time, there is one. If you ask a Buddhist or a religious person who practices meditation, they would answer that you practice all your life. They will also reply that everything you do in your day and night is part of a meditative process (or “should” be).
Just tune your mind to practice every day for up to 15 minutes and write or type that timeslot in your calendar to do it. That is all needed for starting. The rest will come.
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