There’s a direct link between daily meditation and anxiety, as well as cognitive functioning, according to research published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.
If you have ever wondered how long you need to meditate for to reduce anxiety symptoms, the answer appears to be once a day for 8 weeks.
Research On Daily Meditation And Anxiety
Eight weeks of daily meditation and anxiety begins to lessen [READ: Best Mediation Techniques For Anxiety]. Not only this, but cognitive functioning improves, including improvements in working memory, recognition memory, and mood.
Even if you have never meditated before, the research shows that within eight weeks you will get the benefits stated above. This is excellent news for all new meditators.
If you are new to the practice, you might wonder just how it helps with anxiety.
Meditation is a mental exercise in which we focus our attention on one thing. This is often done by focusing on the breath, but could equally be done by focusing on an object or a sound. The goal is to calmly focus on the object in a non-judgmental fashion. It is about cultivating what Buddhists call “pure awareness”. This practice has been linked to many health benefits, ranging from improved mood to better performance in everything from school to athletics.
In my experience as a meditation teacher, the number one reason people get into meditation is because of anxiety. This is especially true today, when we are all self-isolating and are dealing with the anxiety caused by COVID-19.
One question that many people ask is: how long do you need to meditate for anxiety relief? Is this a benefit that only advanced meditators can enjoy, or is it something we can get all get relatively quickly?
The answer, according to the latest scientific research, is that new meditators can see results in eight weeks, practicing once a day. Yes, eight weeks daily meditation and anxiety will start to die down.
The research published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, took 42 non-meditators between the ages of 18 and 45 and split them into two groups. One group practiced a daily guided meditation for thirteen minutes at a time for eight weeks. The control group listened to a 13 minutes podcast for eight weeks. Researchers then compared the two groups to see how meditation improved anxiety and cognitive performance.
The two study groups were also asked to complete a questionnaire about their mood, and to perform neuropsychological tasks to test their cognitive functioning. Stress levels were measured via saliva cortisol samples. The data was collected before the study, at the mid-way point, and after. Then, after the eight weeks, the study participants completed a Trier Social Stress Test, which is a lab procedure that reliably induces stress in test participants.
There were no marked difference between each group’s results halfway through the study, but significant differences after the eight weeks. The group who had meditated had significantly between anxiety, stress and cognitive performance results, as well as less fatigue and better memory.
This was the first test of its kind to study the effects of meditation on non-meditators. To my knowledge it is also one of the first papers to study these effects from guided meditation. Most research focuses on a specific type of traditional meditation (such as Vipassana or Anapanasati). This study, however, used guided meditations.
While I wish more insight was shared on the exact guided meditation script that was used, there are some takeaways from this.
What to takeaway from this article:
Non-meditators can see results in eight weeks.
Simply take eight weeks of daily meditation and anxiety will diminish.
The amount of time required to meditate each day is actually quite short (13 minutes) although this isn’t to say that you won’t get more benefits from meditating for longer
There is now specific evidence on the effects of daily meditation for anxiety