As a meditation teacher, one question I often hear is: How long should you meditate for each day when you’re practicing at home?
It’s a good question and one that is not always easy to answer. It depends on the reason why you are meditating, how long you have been meditating for, the technique you are using (such as Chakra Dhyana, Transcendental Meditation and so on) and your general mental health and ability to focus.
It is well known that the Buddha himself would meditate for many days at a time and sometimes even weeks. But that generally isn’t advised for most people.
Modern research pins it somewhere between fifteen and forty-five minutes.
Most of the research that I read uses daily twenty-minute meditation sessions, which means that that is the minimum amount of time you should meditate for in order to get any real benefits. This also means that so-called “Instant meditations” are not going to work (some instant meditations take as little as one minute, which isn’t a long enough time for any significant benefits).
As well as 20-minute meditation sessions, a lot of research has shown the benefits of 40-45 minutes of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
Then there is the traditional practice. One of the most commonly used Buddhist meditations is Samatha (focusing on one object). Traditionally, this practice would be done by monks and nuns in 15-minute sessions, several times per day.
So if we average out those numbers, it’s clear that you should meditate for between 15 and 45 minutes, and that a good bet would be around 30 minutes (coincidentally, this is also approximately the amount of time it takes me to meditate for one full mala).
That said, knowing how long to meditate for each day also depends on your reason for meditating.
I think the best place to start to answer this question is to ask what you want to get out of meditation.
Let’s take a look at how long you should meditate for different benefits.
How Long Should You Meditate For Real Benefits?
1. How long should you meditate for anxiety
This is one of the most common questions I receive: How long to meditate for anxiety. And in many ways it is a tricky one.
Before you start meditating for anxiety relief, you need to know that there is some research that shows that meditation can actually cause anxiety. That’s why, if you have anxiety and you meditate you should stop if you start to feel uncomfortable.
With that in mind, the ideal time to meditate for anxiety is 20 minutes. The latest research (Behavioural Brain Research, March 2020) showed that as little as 13 minutes of day of meditation could help with anxiety. However, the majority of studies have used daily twenty-minute sessions, which is why I recommend twenty minutes.
While I was writing this article I researched how long to meditate for depression and I found many varying answers. Some (Healthline) state that you can see benefits with just five minutes a day. Others (UVMHealth) have a 3-minute meditation for depression. One (PsychCentral) even had a one-minute meditation for depression. And you can always follow the Eight week MBSR course guidelines, which suggests 45 minutes.
Personally, I would stick to 20-minute sessions while being mindful of how you are feeling. If you experience any negative reaction to meditation you should stop immediately.
Arguably the best practice for overcoming stress is the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course devised by Jon Kabat Zinn. This course uses daily 45 minute sessions for eight weeks and has been shown to significantly reduce stress levels. Otherwise, aim for fifteen to twenty-five minutes each day.
If you’re a beginner, you might not be able to focus properly for a long meditation sessions. That’s why it can sometimes be beneficial for beginners to practice short meditation sessions. The trick here is to be mindful of your concentration. If you get ten minutes into a meditation and you feel like you simply cannot focus at all, you may as well stop and try again the next day.
Then again, if you are new to meditation and you find that you can focus, feel free to continue for up to 45 minutes (I wouldn’t advise longer than that for beginners).
5. How long should you meditate on each chakra?
Many advanced practitioners ask me how long to meditate on each chakra.
If you’re new to chakra meditation I would recommend that you take at least one hour the first time you practice. You want to give yourself enough time to learn how to practice properly. Remember, chakra meditation involves mantras and visualizations (and in some instances mudras) so it’s important to take your time and get the procedure right.
Once you are confident that you know how to do Chakra Dhyana properly, you can speed up the process. If you ask me how long to meditate on each chakra, I’d say at least three minutes each (making a total of 21 minutes) and maybe longer.
So now the big question: How long to meditate for to reach enlightenment? If you’re an advanced meditator you would probably like to reach enlightenment, and doing so is going to take serious time. Buddha meditated for seven weeks straight when he achieved enlightenment. So… you’re looking at quite a long time!
So that’s how long to meditate for each day. But remember: It’s more important that you simply meditate. If you have a very busy day and you legitimately cannot meditate for twenty minutes, it is better to meditate for five minutes than not at all.
Overall, I’d say meditate for twenty minutes a day. If you have more time one day, go a little longer. And if you’re busy, you can get away with a short session.