Wondering how often you should practice mindfulness is a common question, especially for those who are just starting. I know I wondered the same thing, which is why I thought this would make a useful post.
So, how often should you practice mindfulness?
Answer: You should practice mindfulness on a daily basis. Beginners should start by practicing a few minutes every day, and work their way up to 10-20 minutes daily. The total amount of time can be broken into smaller time periods throughout the day.
Why You Should Practice Mindfulness Every Day
The reason you should practice mindfulness every day is that the goal is to make it a habit and a part of your daily routine.
You know the saying “practice makes perfect?” Well, our goal is not necessarily to reach perfection, but rather to consistently incorporate mindfulness into our day-to-day lives.
Consistency is key.
Make a commitment to try at least one mindful exercise a day for the next several weeks in order to help create a habit.
You will be far more likely to reap the benefits of living a more mindful life than if you only practice it sporadically.
To help you with this, I’ve created a post with ideas on how you can practice mindfulness throughout your day.
At this point you may be thinking, “Ok, so I know that it should be a daily habit, but how much mindfulness should I practice a day? 5 minutes? 45 minutes? 4 – 5 hours?”
(Maybe I got a little carried away with that last one. After all, we’re not training to be Buddhist monks. We’re just trying to apply some ancient wisdom in order to live a happier, more positive, and less stressed life.)
How Many Minutes a Day Should You Focus on Being Mindful?
The answer is that it depends.
When you’re first starting out, I’d recommend a few minutes a day. Most people have such hectic lives these days, that even focusing on the present for 3 minutes straight is challenging.
Then over the next few weeks, try to increase that time until you reach at least 10-20 minutes a day.
Some days it may be longer. (Perhaps you’re able to make it to a 60 minute yoga class.) Some days it may be shorter. (Perhaps you’ve had such a hectic day that the best you can do is quickly think about what you are thankful for before drifting off to sleep.)
Now, as I noted above, the total amount of time does not have to be in one sitting. In fact, I find it more beneficial in my own life to break it up into smaller increments throughout the day and think it’s especially helpful to do this if you have anxiety.
(Helpful tip: Try doing shorter mindful exercises when you feel anxious in order to refocus your mind. Then try longer, guided meditations at times when you are not feeling anxious.
I think this method is helpful because you’re not always in a place or have the time to meditate when anxiety strikes. That’s why I think it’s a good idea to have a few go-to, mindful exercises that are quick. See further down the post for a few examples.)
Are Shorter or Longer Mindfulness Exercises Better?
One of the most common misconceptions is that longer mindfulness exercises must be better. Or stated another way, that shorter exercises are not as useful.
Neither is better nor worse than the other. Both are very helpful. Regardless of length, the goal of any mindfulness exercise is to pull your mind back to the present.
The best way to find out what combination will work for you is to experiment with mindfulness exercises of different lengths. Keep in mind any time/location constraints and be realistic with your expectations.
For example, some people like to begin their day with a morning meditation (whether short or long).
I am not a morning person (total night owl here), so this doesn’t appeal to me. It’s not that I’m trying to be negative or haven’t tried it. I have. And I know myself and it just doesn’t work with my natural rhythm.
I do, however, try to focus on the flavor of my coffee, the warmth of my shower, the good morning kiss from my husband, etc.
So I try to do short exercises in the morning and throughout my day, and leave longer exercises for the evenings and weekends.
There is not a right or wrong combination. Find out what works best for you!
Examples of Short Mindfulness Exercises
1. Take a few deep breaths. Focus on both the inhale through your nose and the exhale through your mouth. Listen to the sound of the air as it passes through your nasal passages and fills your lungs. Feel your chest expand. Now listen to the air as it exits your body through your mouth. Feel your chest fall.
(Tip: Many people find it easier to do this exercise with their eyes closed so that they can really focus on breathing without getting visually distracted.)
2. Eat with intention. Savor every bite of food. Take note of the flavors and textures in your mouth. Take some time and enjoy your meal.
3. Express gratitude. Take a couple of minutes to reflect on the things in your life that you are thankful for today. You can keep these thoughts in your head, say them aloud, or even write them down.
4. Try a short, guided meditation. Meditations don’t have to be long. In fact, when you’re first learning how to meditate you’ll find it easier to maintain your focus if the meditation is short and guided.
Here is an example of a 3-minute mindful breathing meditation:
Examples of Long Mindfulness Exercises
1. Try a longer, guided meditation. Guided meditations are one of the most popular forms of a longer mindfulness exercise.
To help get you started, here’s a 10-minute, guided meditation for beginners:
Or try this 20 minute, guided mindfulness meditation:
2. Go for a 10 – 20 minute walk. Just remember to do it mindfully! What do I mean by this? As you are walking, try to not let your mind wander aimlessly. Instead maintain focus on the things around you.
-What do you see? A flower in bloom? A dog wagging its tail while its out for a walk? A neighbor waving hello?
-What do you smell? Fresh spring rain? A lilac bush? Some food being grilled down the street?
-What do you hear? Birds chirping? The laughter of children playing? Tree leaves rustling?
-What do you feel? Crisp fall air? The warmth of the sun on your arms? A blustery gust of wind that makes you shiver?
Try and absorb as much around you as you can.
3. Try yoga. Yoga combines controlled breathing, meditation, and body postures (or movements). It will help teach you to focus on (remain mindful of) your breath as you move through various postures.
Here is a video of a 10 minute yoga routine for beginners you can try:
Or you can try this 20 minute video for beginners:
In summary, you should try to practice mindfulness every day. Start with a few minutes a day while you get used to the process. Then aim for at least 10 – 20 minutes of mindfulness daily.
How Can I Practice Mindfulness Everyday?
Integrating mindfulness into your day-to-day life is one of the most effective ways to be mindful everyday. For example, you can focus on the present when walking the dog, doing the laundry, waiting in line, or during any other daily activity.
How Can I Remember To Be Mindful?
Having a prompt is an effective way to remind yourself to be mindful. Examples of prompts include setting up a daily calendar event, taping a reminder note to the side of your computer monitor, and associating mindfulness with an activity (such as enjoying a cup of tea).
What If I Miss of Day of Practicing Mindfulness?
Don’t worry about it and certainly don’t beat yourself up over it. Just move on and start again the following day. It takes time to build strong habits and intentionally focusing your mind on the present takes some getting used to.