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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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Comment from Sagar
Time: January 9, 2015, 1:56 pm

Hi,

I am a masters student, always worrying about something. I do not have a decisive mind, it varies from a small chocolate to bigger decisions. I wanted to know meditation can help me make good and right decisions.

Regards,
Sagar

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 14, 2015, 11:12 am

Hi Sagar.

Yes, meditation can help you make better decisions. It helps us to be more sensitive to our “gut feelings,” which is often how we make decisions, especially when situations are complex. It also helps to free us from the negative emotions (like fear and craving) that can cloud our thinking. There’s some scientific evidence to show these things to be the case.

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Comment from Philip Morris Jr
Time: January 21, 2015, 6:07 pm

Hello Mr. Bodhipaksa

I am a new student doing Hardware and Networking, but I found it very hard to remember or imagine things, like after I’ve been thought by my instructor over and over, my sense of remembrances and imagining to crap concepts is my problems right now as I am speaking to you at this moment. So please I really need your advice or tips. Thank you very much.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 23, 2015, 11:06 am

I’m afraid this is rather outside my area of expertise, Philip.

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Comment from Harihar
Time: February 2, 2015, 10:31 am

Mostrespectfully sir
I am 22 years old boy, sir my problem was i am always feeling with my health due to anxiety attacked me 12month ago my stomach always tite and gastic. i am also checkup my health
gastroentrology but i cant get good result.wanted to know how much time spend in meditation can help me make good health and right decisions.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 2, 2015, 7:09 pm

Hello, Harihar.

Any meditation that you do will be helpful. Meditation isn’t a miracle cure, but it can help with anxiety. I’d suggest starting with 20 minutes a day, and then seeing if you can increase that to two 20-minute meditations.

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Comment from Sagar
Time: February 4, 2015, 5:45 pm

Hi,

I started meditating around a month ago, and I do it for 15 mins a day, but I am not able to concentrate at all. Every time I close my eyes, I think of something and my mind is not calm at all, and its been told that I should not concentrate on anything when I mediate. Any suggestions how to improve my mediating skills.

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Comment from alexisbeauchemin
Time: February 18, 2015, 7:47 am

hi please when meditator meditate for 6-8 hours a day , are they taking breaks ?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 18, 2015, 10:13 pm

Usually, yes. Very few people could sit in unbroken meditation for that length of time. Often the pattern will be sitting meditation, alternated with walking meditation, plus breaks for meals.

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Comment from Daniel Nerayo
Time: February 23, 2015, 1:33 am

Can you tell me what is the best meditation CD I ca find? any website?
Thank you,
Daniel

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 26, 2015, 4:27 pm

I can’t recommend the “best CD,” Daniel, since that’s a subjective assessment. I think this CD of mine is very good, although there may be others that suit you better. As for websites, this is a meditation website, and I’d recommend it!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 19, 2015, 11:40 am

Hi, Sagar.

Sorry for the lateness of my reply. In the last month I’ve moved house, had surgery, and had several sites hacked, including this one.

Learning to concentrate is the essence of meditation, so I’d say you’ve been receiving some very bad advice. Try working your way through our guide to the mindfulness of breathing, and then lovingkindness meditation. Those guides will give you a better idea of what you’re “meant” to be doing in meditation.

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Comment from gigs
Time: March 27, 2015, 8:24 pm

I did a minimum of 20mins per day but have just had very bad headaches with high blood pressure 222/111 (hereditary) stress was leaking through my 20min shield so have upped my sessions to two one hour per day and sometimes add 20mins to that, it seems to have quashed stress and brought me back to the present though I must say meditations where often useless with my headache but I persisted, try 1 hour solid, it’s very satisfying and you will want to do it again, the more you do the more your mind clears.
My description of Meditation :
Meditation takes you from being the character in the book to being the reader…

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Comment from venu
Time: April 1, 2015, 5:13 pm

I have learnt a few methods. Now I am confused which one to follow. whenever I start a method I always feel that the other one would be better. I feel a sort of guilt for not doing the other method. please advise me. venugopal

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 1, 2015, 6:15 pm

It’s definitely best, until you’ve had many years of experience, to stick to one approach, Venu. What I recommend for most people is alternative mindfulness of breathing and lovingkindness practice on a daily basis. Rather than feel guilty or uncertain, you can take a pride in being faithful to your practice!

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Comment from Malla Krishna Kumar
Time: May 19, 2015, 11:12 am

Comment of Sagar on Feb 4,2015, made me remember when I started to meditate after reading Swami Vivekanada Books on Raja Yoga and others. He cautioned in his book not to worry but continue to do practice. I did it. After 9 months of practice I realized that those thoughts will evaporate themselves without much stress on your mind.

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Comment from Mohit Oberoi
Time: June 2, 2015, 9:23 am

Thank you for a great article, I am also new to it & have been practicing for 2 months, with me my concentration is fully there when I initiate it but gradually I get distracted and start thinking about office, house, money etc. then it becomes very difficult for me to come back..though I try my best but I end up spoiling my mood, I get frustated at times..what to do?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 5, 2015, 9:05 pm

Hi, Mohit.

You don’t say what kind of meditation you’re doing, but let’s assume it’s some kind of mindfulness of breathing. It’s likely that you’re simply not paying attention to enough sensations. When you don’t give the mind enough to do, it’ll find things to do — namely, thinking about the things you mentioned.

If you pay attention to more of the sensations of the breathing (as opposed to “the breath”) you’ll find that the mind becomes much quieter. Thoughts don’t have to disappear entirely, but as you pay attention to many sensations of the breathing you’ll find that your thinking is lighter and more diaphanous. It’ll pass through the mind without catching your attention.

If you do find that you’re participating in your thinking rather than merely observing it, regard this as a “mindfulness bell,” reminding you that your attention has narrowed. And use that reminder to return, without judgement, to a fuller experience of the breathing.

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Comment from Saurav Bhasin
Time: June 21, 2015, 4:05 pm

Hello Bodhipaka,

I can meditate for about 20 minutes a day. I am trying hard to increase it to about an Hour a day and then finally to about 3-4 hours a day. My goal is to attain enlightenment.

If I can manage about 3-4 hours at ONE GO, How long will it take me attain enlightenment. (I assure you that my meditation sessions are quite intense).

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 22, 2015, 2:01 pm

Hi, Saurav.

Getting enlightened isn’t just about the amount of time we spend on the cushion. It depends on what we’re doing in our meditation practice, and on how we’re living our lives generally. I’ve written about this elsewhere.

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Comment from Mohit
Time: June 22, 2015, 2:13 pm

Hello Bodipaka, I. Sit and concentrate on my breathing, you mentioned above that I need to pay attention to many sensations, what do mean by sensations, are you talking about the sensations which happen in my body while breathing or the air which goes in and out while breathig, should I feel the air which goes in and out or the movement of my stomach, chest while breathing or both.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 22, 2015, 2:41 pm

Hi, Mohit.

What I mean is that “the breathing” is not just “the breath.” If we just focus on “the breath” then the mind is likely to become very restless because it doesn’t have enough to do. What I encourage is that people notice sufficient among the sensations constituting breathing that the mind becomes relatively quiet. I don’t think it’s important to notice all of the sensations of the breathing, and it’s not even possible to notice them all at the same time. We just have to give the mind plenty to pay attention to. This can certainly include the movements of the chest and abdomen, and other sensations in the body as well.

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Comment from Blake
Time: June 23, 2015, 12:05 pm

June 23, 2015 10:00 AM

Hello, I am 15 years if age and have just started my meditation training it is my first day and I have managed to make 40 minutes and let me tell you it was amazing I haven’t really experienced many things like that but I can tell you I was lost in meditation for quite some time and am very happy to be continuing in my next step in my meditation training

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Pingback from Mediteren: de ultieme beginnersgids.
Time: June 29, 2015, 2:27 am

[…] Bodhipaksa zegt hier bijvoorbeeld over: “Through my own experience I’ve found that any amount of meditation is better than none.” […]

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