It’s no secret that meditation and mindfulness are amazing practices for your brain. They make you healthier, smarter, and more fulfilled. Yet, despite best intentions, many struggle to find the time to engage in these life-changing practices.
Here’s good news: when it comes to meditation and mindfulness sessions, length doesn’t appear to matter. (And, of course, by “length”, I mean the length of time engaged in a given mindfulness exercise or meditation.) In fact, you may experience even more benefit by shortening your sessions.
Researchers in the 1990s believed it took 50-60 minutes of meditation practice a day to achieve brain benefits. Today, many people assume that you need to engage for some duration between 10 minutes to over 2 hours. But the latest research tells a different story: even 60 seconds of practice changes the brain in powerful ways.
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The research suggests that it’s the accumulated time that matters, not the session length. In fact, the data shows that shorter sessions, spread throughout the day, are much more effective in many ways.
With frequent, spread out, shorter sessions, mindfulness is more fully woven into the fabric of your life. This gives you a greater opportunity to more acutely leverage the brain-boosting effects to address everyday challenges at work or at home.
With this approach, the biggest obstacle can be remembering to engage with these states as the chaos of the day unfolds. That’s why we recommend you set some kind of timer to go off 1-4 times an hour. When it goes off, enjoy 60 seconds (give or take) to relax and engage in your choice of mindfulness practice.
One of my favorite tools for this is Awakeningbell.org. This site triggers Tibetan bell sounds at whatever time interval you choose. A recent study confirmed that focusing on the sound of a resonant bell helps the mind become more focused and attentive. A simple Google search will reveal several alternatives. And yes, there’s an app for that (actually several). After 60-90 days, mindful states will become your habit.
Once you set up a system, and make it a habit to engage in short mindfulness exercises throughout the day, you’ll develop a zen-like focus. You’ll be less stressed, more productive, more aware, and more socially intelligent. All it takes is seconds.
Effects of brief and sham mindfulness meditation on mood and cardiovascular variables. Zeidan F, Johnson SK, Gordon NS, Goolkasian P. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Aug; 16( 8): 867-73.
Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training. Zeidan F, Johnson SK, Diamond BJ, David Z, Goolkasian P. Conscious Cogn. 2010 Jun; 19( 2): 597-605.
The effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on experimentally induced pain. Zeidan F, Gordon NS, Merchant J, Goolkasian P. J Pain. 2010 Mar; 11( 3): 199-209.
This post was lovingly crafted by Josiah Hultgren. He is Founder/CEO of MindFullyAlive, a Senior Lecturer at California Lutheran University, a cognitive coach, and a practical neuroscience expert. He produces and curates mindfulness content designed to improve structure and functioning of the brain.