Does It Matter How Long You Meditate?

A lot is said about having to meditate for a certain length of time. Novices hear contradicting advice and wound up confused and doubting their meditation efforts. Meditating for long periods at first seems daunting because it is. 

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

Greatness isn’t built in one day, as much as we would like to speed up the process. There is something getting in the way, whether it’s the conscious mind or the subconscious one. Meditating for 3 hours is mostly reserved for advanced meditators

However, meditating for 10 or even 20 minutes is achievable for pretty much everyone. It’s usually at this mark where most cross the border to enter benefit-territory. 

That’s where you start seeing small but significant changes outside meditation, in your everyday life that strengthens your faith in the process.

Looking at the bigger picture, while how long you meditate has a significance on how profoundly relaxed and worry-free you become with the meditation, to get to this point you need to build it with small steps. At least, for most people. 

Most don’t have a strong will toward meditation, because the incentive to meditate isn’t strong enough. We usually expect something in return, and any reasonable person would. But the fruits of our meditation lie behind an unknown timeline, which brings uncertainty. 

I like to compare meditation to getting fit. If people approached meditation the same way as building muscle or perfecting a martial art, people’s expectations would be more sound, and thus, they would be less likely to give up on the practice as a whole. 

Many tend to jump into meditation expecting results in just a matter of weeks, while at the same time understanding the rationality that becoming a black belt takes years, if not decades of practice. 

Meditation shouldn’t be treated any differently. The benefits are there, and yes, they are unlikely to take years to experience. 

This mindset is almost like a first step to creating a meditation routine that works for you. It shouldn’t be too short, and it shouldn’t be too long for you to not want to continue. Below, I’ll outline some approaches that work when building a meditation routine.

Know Yourself

Fortunately, meditation teaches you more about yourself. So you will know, almost based on instinct, what the right amount to meditate is for you. But don’t set the time too low under the excuse of instinct, find a reasonable time that’s equal to or above ten minutes but below thirty. 

This applies only if you are starting out, and there are of course exceptions, you may be able to meditate for more or less than 10 – 30 minutes as a novice, I recommend that if you’re starting out to not set a goal that’s lower than 10 minutes. 

With a basic but reasonable goal, you set yourself up on the right path to experiencing even the most basic gains from meditation, such as a reduction in mind clutter and increased peace of mind and focus. 

So long as you are able to keep up this timeframe, it matters more than meditating for long. 

It’s better to do several short but frequent meditations, as opposed to an hour-long meditation where, while it might’ve felt good because you’re not used to it, it’s hard to find the time to meditate for that long and hard to sustain it over the long term, at least, if you are starting out. 

However, it’s not impossible, since there will always be a minority and exceptions to the standard time of meditation for novices. Some are almost built for the practice. 

But isn’t quality more important than quality? Well, getting meditation to be a completely peaceful experience or exactly as projected as the first try is unlikely to happen. 

So during these short meditations, you are learning about yourself. From a scientific point of view, you’re gathering data. 

And the quantity leads to quality because to do meditation properly, you have to have a notion of what it feels like. And you have to have a handful of non-optimal experiences under your belt for you to have a notion of what an enjoyable meditation feels like. 

Once you see meditation as something you gravitate for, rather than finding the will to do it, the easier your journey becomes. Ease of meditation and length of meditation go hand in hand. 

Finding A Balance

If you meditate for too long, you may become disassociated from reality and it’s an extreme shift you likely aren’t used to. 

But if you meditate for just 5 minutes a day, you’re unlikely to notice any changes anytime soon, at least for the short term. And for the long term, these changes are unlikely to be notable.

However, meditation isn’t like lifting weights, where you train your muscles and need time off for the muscles to grow. Meditation is the time off, it’s the energy recharge. 

Don’t let anyone tell you you have to meditate for a specific amount of time. What’s outlined here are just general recommendations for the average individual, that may or may not apply to you based on a process of trial and error. 

While there is true that there are general recommendations based on what’s worked for a sizeable amount of people, such advice may not apply to your situation, so rather than taking any advice mindlessly, including this one, do feel free to add experimentation to the mix, if you’re going into meditation alone. 

Meditation is like an art, it’s like cooking where if you add too much of one ingredient, the food wounds up tasting completely different. 

Mental Preparation

If you set the goal to meditate even for 40 minutes, it’s gonna feel like a chore for the mind if you are first starting out. However, if you set a goal of just meditating for 10 minutes, it’s a much smaller commitment. 

Ten minutes is a bare minimum that allows you to get your feet wet. Thus, shorter commitments lead to less internal resistance, and thus, once you’ve reached the 10-minute mark, you start thinking that it wasn’t as bad as you imagined, and going from 10 to 20 minutes is much easier. 

The idea is to make the meditation practice as painless as possible. Don’t beat yourself over not being able to meditate for a certain time you might’ve set for yourself. 

Just about anyone can find 10 minutes a day to meditate, even those that say they are too busy. If meditation is important to you, you will make time for it. It can even be before your bedtime so it doesn’t feel like you have to sacrifice a significant portion of your time to meditate

Next Steps

Assuming you’ve successfully managed to integrate short meditations into your everyday life, increasing the time meditating will feel like an effortless process, but even then, you can follow your intuition for what you find is right for you. 

This range gets expanded as you get more familiar with meditation, and by starting small, it’s the equivalent of getting the mind used to it gently, don’t set any pressure on yourself. Even if you fail to meet a certain threshold. 

There will always be some resistance when we meditate as beginners, and it becomes less notable over time. A good time to shoot for, however, once you’ve gotten past the beginning stages is 35 to 40 minutes. 

But keep in mind, it’s much more preferable that you do shorter meditations than that if you’re able to stick to those as opposed to every once in a while doing long meditations. Short meditations compound over time and it’s equivalent to reinvesting resources into the mind. 

Final Thoughts

The amount of time you meditate matters from a depth of experience perspective.

And assuming you’re not meditating for too short, frequency of meditation will always trump time spent meditating. In turn, consistency will naturally lead to a longer time span spent meditating. 

Find something that works for you and understand that, in the grand scheme of things, there aren’t rights and wrongs. 

All there will remain is your emotional state after you meditate, to which you can determine the success rate of the meditation. 

Even so, it’d be an unreliable metric from a disciplinary point of view, since, no matter how you feel, the outcome with meditation will often lead to the result that best suits your situation. The more you meditate, the more you change your outlook on meditation, and the easier it becomes for it to become a part of your daily routine. 

Skip to content