If you're just starting out on your meditation journey you may be wondering, “when is the best time to meditate?”.
Should you meditate when you first roll out of bed or before you hit the hay for the night? Should you meditate in the middle of the day or just before dinner?
Some people recommend morning meditations, while others swear by short-midday sessions. Some experts say that meditating before bed creates a relaxing routine that helps you sleep, while others say meditating at night keeps you awake.
These conflicting pieces of advice can leave you confused and wondering if you are hurting your meditation practice by doing it at the wrong time.
The truth is that there is no one time that is best to meditate.
There are several factors that go into figuring out the time of day that works best for each person, such as work or school schedule, the type of meditation, personal commitments, and meditation goals.
What the Science Says
Science says very little about the best time of day to meditate. Instead, scholarly research points to the idea that consistency, competency, and length of time are the factors that make your meditation sessions effective in reducing stress.
Studies like this one from Behavioral Brain Research Journal, consistently find that short daily meditations over the course of about two months show an improvement in mood and focus, as well as a decrease in anxiousness and stress.
The baseline for effective meditation is about 13 minutes per day when practiced consistently.
This means that no matter what time of day you choose to meditate, it is important to hold your session for at least 10 to 15 minutes and to try and incorporate your meditation into your daily routine.
A few missed days here or there is not a big deal, but the more consistently you meditate the better you will become and the more enjoyment and benefits you will experience.
The Best Times for Meditation
Although there may not be a “best” time of day to meditate, it is still helpful to examine your different timing options to determine which is best for addressing various issues or for practicing different types of meditation.
Common times for meditating are early in the morning when you first wake up, as needed when you are feeling stressed during the day, on a work/school break, when you arrive home after work or school, and in the evening before bed.
Meditating in The Morning
Many people prefer to meditate first thing in the morning. For some, this means taking a few moments to gather their thoughts and take a few deep breaths before stepping out of bed.
For others, morning meditation consists of waking up, washing your face, grabbing a cup of tea or coffee, then sitting quietly and meditating for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Morning meditation is beneficial because it helps you get your day started off with a clear head. It sets the tone for the rest of the day by lowering your stress and anxiety before you engage with the world.
Those who enact a morning meditation practice report that it helps them approach the day with a calmer, more clear mind.
Morning meditation is ideally suited for mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises. These types of meditation calm your nervous system and boost your confidence in preparation for the day.
Meditating As Needed
Meditation can also be practiced throughout the day as needed.
If you are dealing with a stressful situation or begin to feel overwhelmed during your day, taking about 5 minutes to sit in a quiet place and practice a mini body scan meditation or quick mindfulness meditation can help reduce stressful feelings and help you feel more present at the moment rather than worrying about what’s bothering you.
Sometimes “as needed” meditation can take the form of walking meditation, in which you focus on bringing your mind and body into harmony with every step you take.
This type of meditation is a great way to blow off stress and get your body moving during the day, especially if you are cooped up in an office or class for several hours.
You can practice walking meditation even in small spaces like school or office courtyards, which makes it an excellent choice if you can’t find a quiet corner to perform mindful meditation.
Meditating On Your Break
If your mornings and evenings are too busy, you can opt to build your meditation practice into your lunch break from school or work.
Many people use their lunch breaks to take a few moments for themselves and step away from the hustle and bustle of their office or class schedule. If possible, try to fit in around 15 minutes for meditating into your break for best results.
Your lunchtime meditation can include a visualization type of meditation where you focus on an element in your surroundings, a walking meditation that stretches your muscles and gets you out into nature, or a mantra meditation where you allow a word or phrase to draw you into the present moment.
If you prefer, you can simply set a short timer and go somewhere quiet, like your car or a nearby park and perform a breathing meditation that helps you center and have a productive rest of your day.
This video gives you a 10-minute breathing meditation that you can perform to reset yourself midway through the day. If you have an hour's break you may try to go longer, but 10 minutes is enough to reap several of the benefits of meditation.
Meditating After Work or School
When you arrive home after a long day - or your workday at home is over - it can be hard to transition from work mode into home mode.
Many people either step in the door and shut down completely or they go straight into cleaning or cooking without taking time to decompress from their day.
To find a happy medium, you might consider getting in the habit of meditating for 10 to 20 minutes after you get done with your day’s official business.
Set aside a designated space in your home, such as a corner in your bedroom or living room, and set your timer. Then, take a deep breath and perform mindful meditation or even a full-body scan meditation.
Meditating after work or school can help you shake off your day and move into a peaceful evening. This can help you enjoy your time off work and connect to family or friends in an open, relaxed manner.
Meditating in The Evening
Meditating prior to sleep is beneficial for getting your body into a peaceful, calm state for a deeper, more restful sleep. It erases the anxieties and worries of the day and allows your mind to empty itself before drifting off.
There are two schools of thought on evening meditation.
Some people say that meditating in the evening should be done at least an hour prior to falling asleep. The reasoning is that meditation brings your mind to focus on the present and can stimulate a refreshed, invigorating feeling that can interfere with your ability to fall asleep immediately after the meditation session.
Alternatively, some researchers say that meditating just before sleep helps you fall asleep more quickly. They also claim that long-term meditators can experience an increase in lucid dreams and regular dreams that are more vivid than usual.
The only way to know for sure how meditating prior to sleep affects you is to experience meditating at different times in the evening and with different types of meditation.
Try journaling in a gratitude journal - which can produce a meditative state or doing a guided meditation that takes your mind on an amazing journey.
You can also opt for a spiritual meditation to help you connect with whatever spiritual being or concept you believe in.
How to Pick Your Best Time to Meditate
To work out what time is best for your personal meditation practice, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Experiment - Try out different types of meditations at different times throughout the day. One way to do this is to pick one type of meditation and try it out for a week at varying times. Keep track of how each experience goes to discover what words are best for you.
- Make it Realistic - When choosing a time to meditate, think about your daily schedule and what time is most realistic for you. For instance, if you have kids and pets that take up your mornings and after work time, try to build in meditation on your lunch break or in the evening after they are asleep.
- Keep it Consistent - Pick a time that will allow you to keep a consistent practice. Remember, consistency is one of the factors that makes meditation effective, so choose a time of day when you are typically free and able to implement a meditation technique.
- Build Competency - Build up your competency over time. If you are new to meditation, read about what meditation feels like to know what to expect and stay consistent in your practice to build up your skill level and reap deeper benefits.
- Make it Enjoyable - Choose a type of meditation that you find enjoyable. If you dislike mindful meditation, don’t force yourself to do it day after day. Rather, pick a meditation that you can see yourself doing most days and gaining the benefits.
Go Start Meditating
Meditation can deliver a multitude of benefits for your mind and body.
If you are confused about when is the best time to meditate, don’t be afraid to experiment with different mediation types such as visualization, mindfulness, body scan, or guided meditation at different times throughout the day to find what works best for you.