Jane, a student in one of my MBSR courses was keen to test out whether a mindfulness practice could enhance her wellbeing. In the first few weeks of the course, she practised diligently. She was delighted as she noticed herself becoming more mindful in many areas of her daily life. As her levels of mindfulness increased, so did her enhanced sense of psychological wellbeing.
As the eight-week course drew to end Jane said, " I feel very different now. I feel more alive, am kinder to myself and worry so much less about all sorts of things." But I am worried about being able to continue my meditation practice when the course finishes. How often do I need to meditate for and for how long? What is the optimal combination?"
It's hard as a teacher because I can see that frequency and length of practice make a difference…but until recently there has been no easy way to prove it.
I've often said something a bit vague like, "Well, the research has been done on MBSR, and MBSR recommends 30-60min of practice a day every day….and I’m not really sure how many people do that much, but the evidence shows the results are good”.
Most research studies cannot agree on a definitive answer. Some say frequency and length of practice impacts on wellbeing and others do not agree. It turns out that there is a problem with how the studies measure meditation practice. Many ask participants to estimate how much meditation they do over a few weeks or months. This way of measuring practice is not useful.