How Often Should You Meditate to Reap the Benefits?
Let’s get one thing straight right away: You should meditate as often as you like and as often as it fits into your schedule. “It’s important to be realistic with ourselves and our schedules” when trying to set up a meditation practice, explains Yoga and Meditation Teacher Paige Allia, RYT 500, owner of Karmic Roots Yoga. “Otherwise we just end up not doing it at all.”
If you’re looking for a hard-and-fast goal, “most research on meditation is based on 20-minute sessions once a day for six to eight weeks,” explains meditation teacher Paul Harrison. “To get most of the benefits of meditation, 20 minutes per day is ideal,” he adds — but don’t beat yourself up if life gets in the way.
These 20 minutes don’t have to be sitting meditation time, though. Allia sometimes starts with clients on walking or even coloring meditations, and combining meditation and exercise is just one tip for making daily meditation easier.
Can You Meditate Too Much?
Although Allia explains that there are cases of Tibetan monks meditating and fasting until they become living mummies and eventually die, everyday meditation practice doesn’t hold much physical risk. If you find that your meditation practice is causing you to avoid your daily responsibilities, however, consider cutting back.
Although research on meditation side effects is still thin, one study did find that unwanted effects were more likely to happen in people practicing for more than 20 minutes. Participants surveyed reported anxiety, depersonalization, stomachaches, headaches, and dizziness.
There’s little risk in more meditation, but there’s no benefit from a meditation marathon. Don’t force a more extended practice in the pursuit of benefits if a 20-minute daily session would fit better in your schedule.
If you have the time to do longer sessions, feel free. You don’t need a study to tell you if those extra 10 minutes help you feel better and more grounded.
If you’re busy enough that finding 20 minutes in your day sounds impossible, that doesn’t mean meditation isn’t for you.
“Even one moment, or one minute, can create a shift in your mood,” says Allia. She underscores that many of us have a vision of a person sitting cross-legged — but that ‘s not the only form of meditation. “Perhaps the moment is three deep breaths in and out while you are buckling your kiddo into the car seat,” she suggests. “Maybe it’s finding a little quiet while on a walk in the woods.”
What If My Mind Wanders?
Trouble concentrating isn’t indicative of how long you should meditate. If your mind wanders 10 minutes into your 20-minute guided meditation, that’s not only normal — it’s expected. We’re all juggling dozens of concerns throughout the day. If they leak into your meditation practice, bring your focus back to the core of your meditation, whether it’s the sound of meditation singing bowls, the feeling and rhythm of your breath, or a mantra you’ve chosen.