Minding the Body

The guide to health and happiness

Four Good Times of Day to Meditate (And One to Avoid)

Expert advice on when to meditate, and when not to.

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When is the best time of day to meditate? According to two experts, the answer depends on what you hope to get out of it.

Research has shown that meditation has many mental and physical health benefits. Among other things, it may help reduce stress, enhance concentration, improve sleep, manage pain, and lower blood pressure. Daily meditation practice is ideal for reaping these rewards. In addition, brief mini-meditations can be done as needed throughout the day whenever you want to calm your mind and relax your body.

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Recently, I had the opportunity to ask two experts for their advice about when to meditate—and when not to. They agreed that the best time varies from person to person, depending on schedule and needs. But below are their recommendations for some good times to consider.

First thing in the morning
Recommended for: daily meditation practice
Laura Maciuika
, EdD, clinical psychologist and author of Conscious Calm: Keys to Freedom from Stress and Worry
: Your routine first thing in the morning sets the tone for the entire day. Before breakfast is generally a good time to meditate. But for beginners, especially folks who are feeling stressed out, meditating at all can be daunting. In that case, I recommend simply putting your attention on slower, deeper breathing—even for just five minutes—early in the day before getting busy with anything.

Whenever you're stressed
Recommended for: as-needed mini-meditation
Stacey Shipman
, MEd, stress management specialist, yoga teacher, and founder of HealthySouthShore.com
: Throughout the day, it's helpful to meditate for a few minutes whenever you feel overwhelmed or pressed for time. Meditation can help you settle your mind, feel more relaxed, and think clearly about an appropriate next step or action. It sounds counterintuitive ("I don't have time to meditate, I have so much to do!"). But it's often the thought of having too much to do rather than actually having too much to do that can create the stress. Meditation can help you feel better and less overwhelmed.

On your lunch hour
Recommended for: daily meditation practice or as-needed mini-meditation
Stacey Shipman
: A midday meditation break has a number of potential benefits. It's an effective way to de-stress after a long meeting or difficult conversation. It can relax tight muscles caused by sitting slumped over a computer. By breaking your normal cycle of thinking, it can also boost focus, creativity, and productivity. Plus, it can be a great awareness building tool, allowing you to be more open-minded and accepting of others.

End of your workday
Recommended for: daily meditation practice
Laura Maciuika
: For some people, meditating at the end of the workday is the perfect way to create a natural boundary between work and the rest of life. For beginners or people who find meditation intimidating, using the breath to re-center then can work really well. It's the intention to create a clear boundary that's powerful. What you don't want is to allow work thoughts to run into the evening so that you're neither still at work nor really fully at home. You can miss out on life that way!

Right before bedtime
Not recommended
Laura Maciuika
: Avoid meditating too close to bedtime so that doesn't become confused with relaxing into sleep. In meditation, we're practicing the opposite—falling more fully awake. Usually, it's best to have an hour between meditation and sleep so that those two things stay clearly separate in your awareness, your body, and your habits.

Linda Wasmer Andrews is author of a children's book about meditation, cleverly titled Meditation. Follow her on Twitter. Find her on Facebook. Visit her online.

 

Linda Wasmer Andrews is a health writer with a master's degree in health psychology.

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