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How long should I meditate each day?

iStock_000005082189XSmallI often get asked variants on the question, “How long should I spend meditating each day, and is there any benefit to meditation if you can’t manage forty minutes?”

Some people notice distinct psychological benefits in the forms of reduced stress and greater happiness with only ten minutes of meditation daily, although most people seem to require around twenty minutes to experience benefits.

One well-known study trained people in meditation for eight weeks. The participants, who were new to meditation, ended up meditating for an average of 23 minutes a day. At the end of eight weeks their brain activity had measurably changed, and they showed much higher activation of parts of the brain that are associated with feelings of well-being and less activation of parts of the brain associated with stress. And they were found to have an improved immune response as well. That’s after just 23 minutes a day, on average.

Through my own experience I’ve found that any amount of meditation is better than none. One those days where, for whatever reason, I’ve only been able to meditate for five or ten minutes, I’ve found that my mental states can change perceptibly over that period of time, and that the benefits persist throughout the day.

So my advice is, just do it. If you can only manage twenty minutes a day, do twenty minutes. If you can only manage ten, do that. If three minutes is all you have, then spending three minutes is much, much better than not doing so.

And just do it every day, and have a minimum commitment for yourself of something like five minutes a day..

The amount of time you’ll have will vary. You might meditate on a regular basis for 20 or 40 minutes, but then have one of those days where you just don’t get a chance to sit until last thing at night, when you’re so tired you think you’re going to fall off your cushion. So sit for at least five minutes. You’ll maintain a sense of being committed to your practice no matter what, and you’ll feel better about yourself. And even five minutes makes a difference.

What about a maximum? Obviously for most people time available for meditation is a limiting factor. On retreat we might meditate for five, or six, or ten hours a day. That’s hardly feasible for most of us in our daily lives, but it’s worth experimenting with doing more practice and seeing what effect it has. I find that if I meditate for more than 90 minutes over the course of a day, there’s an extra “kick” from the practice, and a deep sense of joy comes into my life. I don’t expect that this length of time will apply for everyone in the world, but I expect that there are “tipping points” past which meditation has extra benefits, and that that’s true for most people, even if the magic number isn’t always the same.

Comments

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Comment from PRITHWISH SAHA
Time: June 20, 2013, 1:32 pm

Hello! This is PRITHWISH SAHA from INDIA.I’m 27 yr old guy,pursuing MBA. I must say thanks for such a nice column & I hope it works for me too. I’m totally new to it. & I’m very much like a scatterbrain. I know I badly need to devote time for meditation but then I get too lazy to such a commitment. I will keep meditating for 5 mins on a daily basis. And would give u a feedback a month later.

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Comment from Andrew
Time: September 25, 2013, 1:37 am

Great article! I’ll be making meditation a routine everyday, from now on for thirty minutes.

Thank You so much!

Namaste

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Comment from Ashish Bisht
Time: September 30, 2014, 3:33 am

I do 100% agree that mindfullness really change one’s life for betterment. One must do it to help him and then society.

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Comment from Harish
Time: October 16, 2014, 9:02 pm

Hello there,

thank you for sharing your thoughts. Quick question, is that 90 minutes in one single go or can I stagger it across the day?

Please let me know.

Thank you.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 23, 2014, 10:53 am

Hi, Harish.

When I’ve experienced that extra “kick” from doing 90 minutes of meditation, it’s almost always been in two or three sits spread over the course of the day.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Peter
Time: November 8, 2014, 4:06 am

Thanks for the article! A question, though: if you say that people averaged 23 minutes – is that per day (e.g. spread out over 2-3 sessions) or is that one session per day?

Peter

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 8, 2014, 7:51 am

I don’t know, but I’d suspect most people were doing one sit per day.

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Comment from Harish
Time: November 8, 2014, 12:50 pm

Thanks Bodipaksha…am starting up now….for some reason, am not finding it that hard to do 30 minutes. wonder if im doing it right then….but i feel so light once Im done, its remarkable.

thanks again for responding.

cheers

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 8, 2014, 12:54 pm

It’s a good sign if you’re finding the time passes easily.

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Comment from Peter
Time: November 8, 2014, 12:56 pm

Thank you!

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Comment from Sachin
Time: November 9, 2014, 12:40 am

what is the maximum duration of meditation in a day..??can i meditate through out the if possible ??

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Comment from Harish
Time: November 9, 2014, 2:03 am

aaah….okay, shall persisting for as long as i can. thank you sensei:)

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 9, 2014, 10:18 am

There’s no maximum, although if you force yourself to meditate for a long time you may find that you develop an aversion to sitting. It’s best to build up gradually, unless you’re on retreat, in which case the positive pressure of the structured program makes it easier to sit for longer periods.

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