I’m old enough to remember when meditation wasn’t much of a thing – at least not outside of Asia.  I never learned about it during my Bachelors, Masters, or Doctoral programs.  When meditation began to gain some prominence in the last third of the 20th century, it was initially kind of a fringe practice before becoming more mainstream over time.

For many years, meditation didn’t interest me because it seemed to arrive with sets of stringent rules for practice.  Some recommended a practice of 45 minutes a day, while others encouraged two sessions of 20 minutes a day before meals, and others had different sets of rules for practice.  Unless you had a lot of time on your hands in addition to a belief in the benefits of the process, the notion of adding a specific chunk of time into the day for meditating became a chore.  While taking some time to interrupt the cycle of daily stress obviously had value, it was hard to acquire the skill of meditating while thinking about what else you could be doing during that time.

Over time, the view of meditation has changed, and I have changed with it and become a meditator.  There is now considerable research that demonstrates the benefits of a meditation practice – including stress reduction, anxiety control, improved sleep, increased self-awareness, increased empathy and kindness, and lowered blood pressure.  Another important set of findings relate to the brain, as meditators’ brains tend to have both structural changes that include thickening of some areas and positive changes in neural circuitry.

Another set of findings suggests that lengthy and highly structured meditation times aren’t necessary for changes to take place.  While fixed meditation periods of up to 45 minutes can be helpful for committed meditators, there are evidence-based findings that demonstrate that short periods of meditation one or more times a day can produce at least some of the changes that are gained from longer sessions.  It has been suggested that 10-minute sessions are a good compromise that provides some of both psychological and physiological benefits of longer sessions.

Ten minutes generally works for me.  I can really feel the difference in myself after 10 minutes of meditation, and I can’t psychologically justify telling myself that I don’t have 10 minutes a day to devote to this aspect of self-improvement.  But don’t use that as either a standard or a goal.  If you are not used to meditating and are interested in beginning, read a little about the process and then just start doing it for a minute or two or five.  If you can keep it up for a few days, you may find that it is a self-rewarding activity that you will want to keep doing – or even increasing.  Just don’t make it a chore, or your chances of continuing will be markedly diminished. 

Ron Kaiser, Ph.D. Psychologist, Educator, Author, Podcaster

Ron Kaiser, Ph.D., is a positive health psychologist, coach, author, podcaster, educator, consultant, and speaker. He has been in practice for more than five decades, including 25 years as Director of Psychology at the world-famous Jefferson Headache Center at Thomas Jefferson University. As an innovative thought leader in the field, he has developed the concepts of THE MENTAL HEALTH GYM, GOAL-ACHIEVING PSYCHOTHERAPY (GAP), THE TYPE P PERSONALITY, and REJUVENAGING®.

Tagged: ,