How long should I meditate for? Is it 20 minutes twice daily or one hour once a day? What about just 10 minutes in the morning?
I call this the ‘optimal dosage question’ and it always gets asked when the topic of meditation is being discussed. The question itself kind of makes me laugh. What’s often behind it, is a desire to know “what’s the minimum I need to practice to get results?”
I’m a meditation teacher, practitioner and therapist. I’m not a researcher, so I’m going to hand this question over to one of the world’s leading scientists in this field, Dr Richard Davidson. In an interview published last year, he addressed the optimal dosage question stating:
“There’s a lot we don’t know…We know almost nothing about what the optimal dosage, if you will might be, and how that may vary across different kinds of individuals…”
- Dr Richard Davidson
Dr Paula Watkins of CalmConsciousConnected.com
We are at the very beginning of understanding how different individuals respond to different techniques and in what ‘dosage’.
Of the research we do have, positive changes in brain functioning and wellbeing have been reliably documented in studies employing a dosage of 20 minutes daily.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should limit your practice to that. Nor does it mean that a 10-minute practice is a waste of time.
No one particular meditation technique can claim to be the ‘best’ for everyone.
Some approaches have received more attention from the scientific community and some have received more celebrity endorsements.
Current neuroscience indicates that we will likely learn more about both the similarities and differences of different techniques as well as for whom and when they’re most effective. While science plays catch up, in the meantime, here’s how to make meditation work for you:
- Think bespoke
Just as we all have unique physical makeups, we also have different neurological profiles. Our personalities, environments and beliefs are all different. We go through different life stages and phases, with different needs, goals and intentions (eg, you might want to meditation to improve focus, pay attention, be less reactive, more calm, a better partner, etc).
- Let your experience be your guide
Look to research to inform your practice and turn to your meditation teachers for advice, but study yourself, then trust yourself and your experience. Blind faith in a method and dosage that may not necessarily be ‘optimal’ or even realistic for you can lead to frustrating and even disheartening experiences.
- Keep a meditation journal
Just like a food diary, or gratitude journal, taking notes serves as means of exploring and better understanding what works for you.
Dr Paula Watkins is a clinical psychologist and meditation expert. Check out her online courses at CalmConsciousConnected.com.