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Meditating is a very personal practice, but a study found that a set amount of time provides significant benefits and stress relief.
Meditation comes with a significant amount of benefits. Depending on your optics, meditation can be used to strengthen spiritual connections, to cope with anxiety or to decompress before completing an important activity. Still, when you’re just starting to do it, it’s difficult to know how long to time each session and whether or not it’s working.
There’s not one straight answer and it all depends on how long you’ve been meditating, but, according to Healthline, in order to measure how effective a meditation session is, you must account for four factors: frequency of practice, duration, adherence to instructions, competence and enjoyment.
Different studies found that the more people meditated, the more effective it was. How consistent people were and how repetitive also mattered. Lastly, how competent people were at their meditation session was also important, implying that while time and commitment matters, focus is also key.
An important study conducted in meditators who had little experience found that meditating for 13 minutes a day over a period of eight weeks was enough for people to experience decreased negative moods, increased attention span, better memory and less anxiety.
Thirteen minutes sounds like a long time for inexperienced meditators, which is why competency is also important. Headspace explains that, when meditating, if it feels like too much time, it usually is. “If the session feels unbearable and continues to feel unbearable, and we are unable to discover the source of that resistance, then that is not time well spent.” While the session should feel a bit challenging, it shouldn’t be unbearable or demotivating.
If you’re a beginner, start off slow, with 3-5 minutes sessions. Be consistent with your practices, allowing yourself to stretch this amount of time in a way that feels organic and intuitive. Once you’ve reached the 10 or 15 minute mark, you’ll begin to spot noticeable improvements.
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