How Often Should You Practice Mindfulness?

  • By: Ryan Kane
  • Updated: December 5, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

While mindfulness has a variety of forms, for many people, meditation is their go-to method of mindfulness. If you’re not sure how often to practice, shoot for 13-15 minutes per day over the course of 8 weeks.

Here’s a scenario you might have faced:

You’ve decided to take action—you’re going to get your mindfulness practice off the ground, and improve your wellbeing.

You don’t want to burn out, so you settle on 15 minutes of meditation a day, plus writing a few things in your gratitude journal. A 20 minute commitment.

And then—life happens—and you find it’s been a week since you’ve done either. You’ve fallen off the wagon.

While meditating every day is a good goal to have and mirrors much of the research that’s been done on the benefits of meditation, it can be a tough rhythm to keep up. It’s okay to create a meditation schedule that works for you.

How often should you practice mindfulness?

How Often Should You Meditate
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Shoot for 13-15 minutes per day over the course of 8 weeks. This puts you in line with many of the studies that have shown the benefits of meditation.

For example:

  • 15 minutes per day of meditation can show benefits, according to Harvard University.
  • That’s closely in line with a 2018 study that showed 13 minutes a day (over the course of 8 weeks) can show benefits.
  • 20 minutes a day is another common benchmark, often recommended by practitioners of Transcendental Meditation.
  • Then there’s the 45 minutes a day laid out in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.

However, if you’re just getting started with mindfulness, you’re more likely to create a sustainable practice if you shoot for small wins at the beginning.

Your commitment to yourself can be as short as a one-minute “mindful moment.” Five minutes is a common starting point for beginners using popular meditation apps.

Even if meditation isn’t your cup of tea, you might continue your mindfulness practice with the intention to write down three things in a gratitude app or journal each morning.

How many times a day should you meditate?

How Many Times A Day Should You Meditate
Most research on meditation observes people meditating once per day.

In the studies done on mindfulness, the most common frequency is once per day.

Practicing mindfulness daily has definite advantages, especially to build momentum for your habit.

Some traditions recommend even more frequent meditation.

For instance, a Tibetan meditation practice called shamatha is typically practiced for 10-15 minutes several times a day.

But in general, once per day should be enough if your goal is to give yourself the best chance at getting the widely-studied benefits of meditation.

Ultimately, the answer to this question is based on what you can accommodate with your schedule and level of interest.

Your end goal is to experience mindfulness as much as you can, so you can spend more of your life in the present moment. But in terms of practicing mindfulness with “training sessions” like meditation, breathwork, yoga, journaling, and gratitude, the answer is entirely personal and based on what you feel you need.

Are you supposed to be mindful all the time?

No way! Mindfulness and meditation are not about “perfect.”

Take the experience of meditation itself, for example. In the course of your meditation practice, you’re likely to get distracted and find your thoughts running down a rabbit hole many times. As you notice this, you gently bring your thoughts back.

Take this lesson, zoom out and apply it to your mindfulness efforts writ large.

You have an intention to practice mindfulness at a certain pace, for a certain amount of time, in certain contexts, and you (inevitably) miss the mark sometimes.

As you notice this, gently nudge yourself back into your practice.

Meditation often feels like you’re failing—and that’s ok

Meditating often feels like failing
Life often gets in the way of even the most solid habits. Just don’t beat yourself up when it happens.

Are you supposed to be mindful all the time?

No way. That’s an impossible standard.

Your mindfulness practice can be seen as “training,” with the goal to have moments of awareness and mindfulness more and more throughout your day. When you’re training at something, you’re not expected to do it perfectly, or even that well at all.

But even the example I gave of the seemingly easy target of 20 minutes a day of meditation and gratitude is destined to fail at some point.

Life gets in the way, or your motivation falters, or you start to feel stuck in the same routine.

We’re not robots! Humans get bored and distracted.

Even so, it can be good to set an intention for yourself to know what to shoot for. Then, you can shift your intention as you start to get a feel for what is feasible and sustainable for you and what isn’t.

Creating a mindfulness practice that works for you

Mindfulness is fascinating because there are so many studies that show its ability to improve our lives.

Studies that show successful reductions in stress with 13 minutes a day of meditation for eight weeks make mindfulness feel almost like a “prescription” that can be followed.

And the prescriptions you see in studies may very well work for you.

But even though mindfulness has been studied extensively and there are rough benchmarks as to how much and how long you might need to practice, at the end of the day, you need to find what works for you.

We all have different minds.

Mindfulness is, in part, the practice of figuring out how your own mind works and what practices are most effective at training it to be more present. Mindfulness is inherently personal, and your job is to become an expert on your own mind.

So start with rough guidelines and benchmarks if they’re helpful to you. But remember that your goal in the end is to understand your own mind, and learn how to train it.

Which mindfulness techniques, how long, and how many times a day?

That’s entirely up to you.

Further reading

To learn more about meditation habits and frequency, check out the articles below.