How long does it take for meditation to work? Is it like dieting where you can start seeing results in a few days, or is it more like investing in property, where you may not see returns for months or years?
My first foray into meditation started because I read lots (and lots) of blogs of the people I admire, saying that they meditated and how much they got out of it. The benefits that they mentioned are a bit … vague, and unquantifiable. But they use words like: calm, clear thinking, relaxed, focused, self-aware, in touch with nature, better relationships, healthier, and the clincher… happy.
And this isn’t just people in one one niche, such as personal development, new age or hippie. But this was from people who have seen success in many areas of life. Successful business people, athletes, artists, adventurers, travellers, cooks, parents and animal owners.
There was no one particular type of person that would meditate, it would be introverts and extroverts, the creative or practical, young or old, male or female. It really is a mixture of people.
So with all that, I figured that meditation must be something that’s good for me. But being the impatient ‘I-want-it-now’ person that I am, I wanted to know how long I’m in this for.
I committed to doing a meditation every day for about 10 minutes per day. I didn’t have a time limit on it like 30 days or anything. I figured this is one of those things like dieting, where you’ve gotta stop calling it a diet, and start calling it a lifestyle. Meditation was going to become my lifestyle.
Oh brother… :-/
But how long does it take for meditation to work?
If you’re anything like me and are motivated by progress and improvement; then the best answer I can give you is to tell you that: It will take aaaages!
Seriously. Don’t be looking for a clearer mind, better focus, more peace, love and happiness, within ANY time frame.
Here’s the thing (which I WISH someone had told me prior to starting):
Meditation is about the process.
Ugh, don’t you hate that expression?
But it’s true. Stop looking for how meditation will improve your life right now. It’s gonna happen without you realising anyway. The true benefit in mediation can be found in every session that you do.
It only took me three months to figure that one out. :-/
The benefits of meditating
Why would you meditate unless for benefits, right?
Well, just like I found in every article I could find about meditating, the benefits for me are also a bit… vague. But I’ll attempt to list them out (coherently) here:
- I feel proud of myself that I’ve managed to stick at this for over 3 months now. Is that a benefit? I get a little internal smile knowing that I’m doing something that’s good for me.
- I’ve maintained an early-riser schedule. I get up early every (okay, most!) days to meditate and do other personal development stuff. When my alarm goes off at ridiculous o’clock I’m not totally bummed at having to leave my nice warm bed. I’m looking forward to giving myself just that 10 minutes of attention.
- Now when I meditate, my mind isn’t swirling as much with a truck load of thoughts. If I’m excited about something that keeps demanding my mental attention, I’m more easily able to put it to the side for awhile. Knowing that I can get back to it, after I meditate. It feels quite empowering to be able to focus on what I want to focus on.
- When I meditate I have a chance to notice how I’m feeling emotionally and physically. At the beginning of any session I mentally scan down my body and notice any feelings of pain or tightness. And I also take note of how I’m feeling, whether excited or anxious or grumpy. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that I’m excited more often than I’m grumpy. It feels good to start out the day actually knowing how you feel.
- I feel like I’m getting closer to who I really am. Like, when I meditate, I’m giving myself (my mind) the time that I need to think about what I’m motivated by. By that I mean that I have emotions that gently bubble up when I ponder questions like ‘What do you really want to achieve?’ Meditation gives me the opportunity to not just go with the first response that pops into my head, but to let more ‘answers’ come to me.
So as you can see, meditation hasn’t fostered in any massive changes for me… yet. No lightening bolts of clarity, waves of peace or any other metaphor.
But it’s definitely been nice. I feel nice. I feel like I’m making a change for the good. And that’s good.
What techniques were the most helpful to me?
Don’t forget, I’m a beginner. So there’ll be no 60 minute sessions or chanting or astro-traveling. And definitely no sitting on the floor cross-legged (unless I wanted to spend the whole session annoyingly fixated on how uncomfortable I was).
Guided meditation on YouTube
I started out with a 10 minute relaxation guided meditation that I found on youtube. It was a nice gentle introduction to the art of meditating. Not too long, the lady talking wasn’t too irritating and it didn’t have me doing any weird stuff that I wasn’t comfortable with, like talking to my chakra or something.
But… it took less than a week to be TOTALLY bored with the same guided meditation. I found it harder to stay engaged in the meditation than if I’d just done it in silence.
So I moved on to:
A website started by an english guy who left his studies in his early twenties to go to the Himalayas and study meditation. He was ordained a Tibetan Buddhist monk, but he’s transitioned back to the lay life now.
Headspace is a mine of guided meditations. For beginners it takes you through the foundations of meditation for about a month and then you can choose to go through any of the series of meditation. They are on topics like motivation, focus, love, self-esteem and heaps more. And they’re all different, so it’s not like you’re hearing the same thing over and over again.
They’ve also created a mobile app which makes things a bit easier too.
It costs $80 (US dollars) for a year, but you can do a free trial of the 10-day foundation course. I’d recommend you do that. For me, that 80 bucks (or about NZ$110) was well worth the money.
The Quick Answer
If I was waffling on a leeetle bit too much for you, and you scrolled straight to the bottom to find
the my answer… the answer is… dum da da daaah…
It took three months before I started to notice any benefits from meditating.
Ummm, well maybe that’s a bit generous; maybe a a better way to phrase it would be to say:
“It took three months before I stopped being annoyed that nothing was happening, and just enjoyed the practice for what it gave me in the present moment.”
So there you have it. The magic number is three months. Persevere for three months and THEN start questioning whether meditating is working for you.
By then, I think you’ll be so into it, and enjoying just doing it, that you won’t need to question.
How about you? Do you meditate, and how long did it take for you to start seeing any benefits from meditating? Tell us in the comments.