Meeting the Bare Minimum for Meditation

Recent research suggests 25 to 30 minutes a day of meditation could result in measurable changes to the brain and our stress levels. 

Photograph by Shilo Rea

Just a few minutes of meditation a day” is all you need, according to media coverage of a recent mindfulness study. That study suggests 25 minutes of meditation per day over 3 days can alleviate stress.

“More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits,” said lead author David Creswell.

A similar number has been echoed lately by another neuroscientist: Richard Davidson of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, U-W Madison.

As Davidson tells Mindful, research is beginning to show how as little as 30 minutes per day training our minds to do something different can result in measurable changes that can be tracked in a brain scanner. “We can intentionally shape the direction of plasticity changes in our brain,” says Davidson.

It’s an exciting idea—only minutes a day of mindfulness meditation can lower stress levels and actually “rewire” ingrained responses that we’re hoping to weed out.

But the intention part is where things get tricky. Just as we now have some scientific evidence about minimum requirements for meditating, we also have some research that suggests sitting alone with your thoughts is incredibly difficult for most of us.

David Creswell’s research was featured in the December 2013 issue of Mindful magazine.