Meditation Practice: what is it, and how long should you meditate?

Meditation has gained widespread popularity as a means to achieve mental clarity, emotional well-being, and overall life balance. Meditation can paint pictures for us of Buddhist monks sitting still, living a renunciant life and something that may seem far removed from our lives. But what is meditation? and how long should you meditate? In this post, we will explore what is meant by meditation, the types of meditation, the meditation benefits, and we will delve into the considerations behind meditation duration to help you discover the right balance for your personal journey towards inner peace.

  • What Is Meditation?
  • What Are the Types of Meditation?
  • What Stops Something From Being Meditation?
  • Meditation: How Long Should You Meditate?
  • Regular Meditation Session: How often should you meditate?
  • Practice Meditation: Listening to Your Inner Self
  • How Long Does Meditation Take to Work?
  • Benefits of Meditation on the Mental and Physical Health

What Is Meditation?

Generally, meditation means focusing the mind, aided by an object or point of concentration, eliminating the stream of jumbled thoughts that may crowd your mind. We often use the word “meditative” in everyday conversation to describe our experience of activities like painting, drawing, being in nature or watching the sunset.

What Are the Types of Meditation?

There are various meditation techniques, each with its unique approach and purpose. Meditation is not limited to sitting – it can range from mindfulness meditation, where you focus on your breath and observe your thoughts without judgment, to loving-kindness meditation, which involves cultivating feelings of compassion and empathy towards yourself, walking meditation, and so on. The choice of meditation technique largely depends on your personal preferences and goals.

Meditation is more about the concentration we have than a specific practice. Whether sitting or walking, many different activities have the potential to be meditation. It is possible you have practised meditation without knowing it!

What Stops Something From Being Meditation?

The meditative effect of an activity is not guaranteed. What makes sitting meditation different from sitting itself, for example, is the self-awareness, how present and attuned with the act we are. Walking becomes meditation in the same way – when we are not doing it absent-mindedly. If we are not in the present moment in our chosen practice, there can be no meditation.

Male and female school children in uniforms sitting with eyes closed as they learn mindful breathing.

Meditation: How Long Should You Meditate?

Meditation is very much quality over quantity. There is no fixed amount of time we should practise for. Meditating for an hour does not guarantee more significant success than just 5 minutes. It’s better to have a focused and meaningful meditation session for a shorter duration than a distracted and unproductive session for a more extended period. The less distracted we are when we meditate, the deeper the meditation. Quality meditation involves being fully present in the moment and engaging with your chosen technique wholeheartedly.

Regular Meditation Session: How often should you meditate?

The main thing is establishing a meditation routine that works for you.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how long you should meditate. The optimal meditation duration is a highly individualized matter that can vary depending on several factors. It is better to have a steady meditation routine than a varied and inconsistent one. Consistency is key, as it is only through establishing a routine that you benefit from the effort you put in. The more you consistently meditate regularly, even if just once a day, the more you get out of it.

Beginners meditators usually might find it challenging to meditate for extended periods, as the mind tends to wander more frequently. Starting slowly with shorter sessions and gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable is a prudent approach. This will guide your meditation routine and allow you to find the meditation practice that resonates most.

As you become more accustomed to meditation, gradually increase your session duration. This provides sufficient time to dive deeper into your practice and experience its benefits.

Seasoned meditator practitioners can explore longer meditation sessions. Extended sessions can lead to profound insights and heightened states of awareness.

Practice Meditation: Listening to Your Inner Self

Ultimately, listening to your inner self is the key to determining the ideal meditation duration. Pay attention to how your body and mind respond during meditation. Your meditation practice duration can vary daily based on how you’re feeling and your goals for that particular session. If you become restless or distracted, it might be a sign to wrap up the meditation session. On the other hand, if you’re experiencing a deep sense of calm and focus, you could extend the meditation. As you embark on your meditation journey, allow yourself the flexibility to explore different meditation session lengths and techniques until you find what resonates best with you.

meditate, woman, inner self, meditate daily

How Long Does Meditation Take to Work?

The timeline for experiencing the benefits of meditation is as unique as the individual embarking on this journey of self-discovery. Much like physical exercise, the effects of meditation can vary based on several factors, including your commitment, consistency, and the depth of your meditation practice. As you continue to dedicate yourself to the practice, you’re likely to observe increased emotional resilience, improved focus, and a greater sense of overall well-being.

Benefits of Meditation on the mental and physical health

The benefits of meditation are vast and have been extensively studied and documented by researchers and practitioners alike. Studies show that incorporating meditation into your daily routine appears beneficial for your mental and physical health.

Meditation serves as a sanctuary where stress melts away, giving rise to a profound sense of tranquillity. This practice nurtures emotional well-being by allowing us to cultivate a deep understanding of our mind works, noticing our thoughts and feelings, and fostering a healthier relationship with ourselves and others.

Here are some of the key benefits:

  1. Stress Reduction: One of the most well-known benefits of meditation is its ability to reduce stress. Regular meditation practice has been shown to lower the production of stress hormones. Regular meditation promotes relaxation, acting on our parasympathetic nervous system, and provides a sense of calm that extends beyond the meditation session.
  2. Improved Focus and Concentration: Meditation involves training your mind to stay focused on the present moment. This practice translates into improved concentration, enabling us to navigate the complexities of daily tasks with newfound clarity.
  3. Emotional Well-being: Meditation can help emotional regulation. It’s particularly effective in managing anxiety, fears, depression, stress, and other mood disorders by fostering greater self-awareness and emotional control, we stop being preoccupied with our activities.
  4. Enhanced Self-Awareness: Through meditation, you can develop a deeper understanding of your mind and notice your thoughts, emotions, feelings and repetitive behaviours. This heightened self-awareness allows you to make more conscious choices and develop kindness to yourself and others.
  5. Better Sleep: Insomnia and sleep disturbances are common issues in today’s fast-paced world. Meditation can help improve sleep quality by promoting relaxation and reducing the mental chatter that often keeps us awake at night.
  6. Pain Management: Mindfulness meditation has been found to be effective in managing chronic pain. By redirecting your focus away from the pain, you can alter your perception of discomfort and reduce its impact on your well-being.
  7. Increased Compassion: Loving-kindness meditation, also known as Metta, involves cultivating feelings of love, compassion, and kindness towards yourself and others. This practice can lead to improved relationships, empathy, and a greater sense of interconnectedness.
  8. Lower Blood Pressure and Heart Health: Regular meditation has been linked to reduced blood pressure and improved heart health. The relaxation response triggered by meditation helps lower heart rate and contributes to overall cardiovascular well-being.

In the quest for inner peace and balance, the question of how long you should meditate is less about a fixed time frame and more about a mindful approach. Meditation is a personal journey, and the duration of your sessions should reflect your unique needs, goals, and experiences. As you immerse yourself in the present moment, meditation becomes a conduit for self-discovery and personal growth, the key is to create a meditation practice that nourishes you.

If you’re interested to discover what Meditation is and how Mindfulness can help, check out our upcoming Meditation and Mindfulness courses and sessions to bring positive emotions into your daily life.

Author: Lewis Gwilt

Meditation in the Main Temple at Jamyang London Buddhist Centre
Meditation in the Main Temple at Jamyang London Buddhist Centre

Discover more about Meditation and Mindfulness with the following post of the series “Unveiling Meditation“.