I'm a pretty busy person, and although I genuinely want to devote more time to daily meditation, some days it's all I can do to meditate for five minutes before I fall sound asleep. But are those few moments of mindfulness before bed even worth it? How long should you meditate in order for it to actually make a difference and reap the benefits of the practice? Well, let's just say this: According to experts, every minute of meditation counts, so if you, like me, have had trouble finding time for it in your daily routine, it might be worth it to make the practice more of a priority.
According to Gary Gach, a mindfulness expert and author of the book Pause, Breathe, Smile, "formal meditation" typically lasts about 20 minutes, which is roughly the amount of time that needs to pass "before the sympathetic nervous system calms down and allows deeper responses to life to arise," Gach tells Elite Daily over email. But don't let that number scare you; the mindfulness expert says those 20 minutes don't have to look like the stereotypical definition of meditation — i.e. sitting cross-legged on the floor with your eyes closed. Instead, Gach says you can definitely meditate while walking, and even mindful eating counts as a formal meditative practice, too.
But don't wait until you have 20 minutes to spare to meditate. "If you only have five minutes, but would like to do 20 minutes, do the five minutes," Eric Ruffing, an associate marriage and family therapist and certified meditation teacher, tells Elite Daily in an email. "It establishes meditation as habit and starts to become meaningful to your day."
A really important point here, though, is that there aren't exactly any fixed "rules" for meditation, especially when it comes to how long you should do it for. Rather, it's more about finding a method that works well for you, and you alone.
If you're looking to discover your own meditation length, mindfulness/meditation teacher Carlo Quick M.Ed says you first need to determine a baseline: Start by timing yourself and keeping a close eye on your body's cues, he explains, so that you can figure out your individualized, ideal time for meditation, or at least the ideal time based on how much training you've done up to that point. To do this, Quick recommends setting a timer for five minutes. After closing your eyes and centering your breathing and your thoughts, take note of the time at which meditation begins to feel difficult. "When you find yourself really struggling to maintain focus on your breathing and the present moment," he tells Elite Daily over email, "it’s a good time to stop your meditation."
Even if you barely make it past a few minutes of meditation before you feel distracted, don't lose hope. You can definitely train your body to gradually meditate for longer periods of time, but the key is to adjust slowly, says Jona Genova, a meditation teacher, energy healer, and founder of Samadhi for Peace. "Begin with two minutes a day, and after about a week, if it feels right for you, add a minute," she tells Elite Daily. "Keep going like that." See, according to Genova, jumping directly into 20 minutes of meditation right from the start might just set you up for failure in terms of consistency and dedication to your practice. But being patient with yourself, she says, is of the utmost importance.
Your meditation times can also depend on what meditation style you're following, according to mindset coach, yoga teacher, and meditation expert Cat Aldana. She tells Elite Daily in an email that some practices, like transcendental meditation or vipassana, suggest a 20-minute meditation practice both in the morning and evening. Again, though, no one's saying you have to meditate in these specific ways. Consider them helpful guidelines that steer you in the right direction when you feel lost or confused by the practice.
Now, if you're regularly trying to meditate, but can't seem to make it past a couple of minutes, no matter how hard you try or how often you practice, Genova says it might be useful to ask for some expert guidance. "Find an authorized meditation teacher (with at least 10 years of personal practice under their belt) to help you in person," she explains, adding that this type of individualized attention might be able to teach you some tools for extending your meditation practice, if that is your goal.
Whether you've spent one minute or 20 minutes meditating today, give yourself a pat on the back, says yoga and meditation teacher Jennifer Boileau: "If you've taken even a single minute for yourself during the day," she tells Elite Daily, "you're already winning."