It’s definitely the question I’m asked most as a Meditation instructor, and one that’s actually very tricky to answer! What is the best time of day (or night) to Meditate?
For many people living with lots of pressures and lots of demands on their time, energy and attention, stress can become second nature. The effects of living with long term stress have been well documented, and shown to increase blood pressure, suppress your immune system, increase inflammation in your body and increase cortisol levels which can create weight gain, impact your mood, disrupt your sleep and increase headaches.
However, an increase in society’s understanding of mental health and the benefits of regular self care, coupled with increased access to knowledge and learning through technology means Meditation is also becoming more popular and more accessible. The NHS now recommend Meditation as a way to relieve pain levels whilst reducing stress and milder symptoms of depression.
But the big question remains, when is the best time to Meditate. And of course I can’t know your schedule, but I do know that you will never find the time to Meditate. You have to make the time.
Even if just for a few minutes.
This means consciously and proactively setting aside time you need when planning your day or evening, because those who wait till they remember (of if they remember) are more likely to feel Meditating is a burden, feel Meditating is something to rush and they are more likely going to struggle to focus.
Start by considering your schedule, and without setting rigid times/days or sessions to stick to (because the all or nothing mindset never works) begin understanding when you can benefit from Meditating the most.
What you want to gain from Meditation, will more than likely influence your thoughts around your schedule and from that point, consider when it will be best for you, as an individual, to Meditate.
Mornings are often promoted as the best time to Meditate, because it allows you to take 5 minutes before the rush and hustle of the day, making it easier build into a habit.
Enjoying morning meditation means you are setting the tone for your day ahead, facing whatever life brings with an open and refreshed mindset. It can also be helpful as a way of refreshing your energy for those who struggle to sleep, or struggle to sleep well and wake still feeling sluggish, as the Meditation engages your breath throughout your whole physical body.
In a way, morning meditation becomes a wake up call to the brain and body, providing time to prep for the day ahead.
2. Afternoon Meditation
Lunchtime meditations are increasingly popular (especially within the workplace) as an excellent way to physically and mentally relax, helping you remain focussed and energised – plus it gives your attention a bit of a boost.
Many people find that taking time to refresh their mind, their thoughts and feelings during the day, helps boost their productivity, because they can return to tasks more clear minded.
Further more, by breathing fully during Meditation, the right amount of oxygen can flow through your bodies fatigued muscles and drained brain to help you feel re energised at the time of day many people begin to feel a slump in energy.
3. After work Meditations (early evening)
If your someone who feels drained and frustrated finishing work or from exhausted from the busy or stressful day (whatever your daily routine is) an early evening Meditation may be right time for you, so you can feel rejuvenated mind, body and soul.
For those who struggle to mentally disconnect their work life from home life, or stay present in their home life and ‘down time’, choosing an early evening Meditation can help you relax and help you make the mental switch necessary to leave stress behind them.
Consider it as if you’re drawing your line in the sand, letting go what has happened and refocussing on here and now.
After work Meditations are best for those who struggle to maintain boundaries, or feel that they carry their day with them too long as it provides the mental and emotional refresh opportunity for the mind. Many people use the commute time home as a way to filter and release the day (without realising they are doing it) but with more people working from home, that time for filtering, processing and resetting the days events has been lost, and Meditation can be an important step in taking back control of your mindset.
Evening/Bed Time Meditation
Of course to wrap up your day, and aid in better sleep, an evening or bedtime Meditation can help your mind fully unwind so you feel more rested and refreshed. Because Meditation helps release the stress hormone cortisol we can also encourage better quality sleep, which is important for those who never reach the deep sleep levels needed to feel refreshed in the morning, which is covered in our brain waves blog.
Similarly, because Meditation has been shown to reduce pain levels for those with a chronic condition, night time Meditation can help physically relax the body, making it more comfortable for sleep positions.
It should be noted that Meditations to improve sleep should be enjoyed around 2 hours before we climb into bed for sleeping, as it should be used for sleep preparation.
The brain does not have an off switch, which means we need filtering time to prepare, and by Meditating to help us nod off, we are in fact teaching ourselves to sleep instead of Meditate, which has it’s own drawbacks. If we continually use Meditation purely for sleep, we will find it more challenging to then Meditate at another time of day and stay awake. If we repeatedly fall asleep whilst trying to Meditate (whilst that might be beneficial for insomniacs) we are in fact missing out on the Meditation itself.
With that said, I personally Meditated only at night for many years, it allowed me time to settle my children for the night, and create time and space for myself (even just 20 or 30 minutes) and it helped me relearn to relax, be present and improved my mental health but also feel calmer and more capable for the next day.
Meditating before or after exercise
Interestingly Meditation has been shown to double the health benefits when combined with exercise (even a simple walk). But many people wonder which you should do first – meditation or exercise?
Most fitness experts would suggest you to meditate first, because meditating before exercising allows your muscles to relax, your mind to find it’s own sense of calm and quiet and your breath work to improve, meaning you are physically and mentally ready for the physical exercise and improving your mind/body connection.
However, Meditating after exercise or physical movement can also become part of a cool down practice, relieving aches and pains, relaxing the muscles and creating a filter period to become more settled once again.
And this is what I enjoy, I combine some deep breathing with positive affirmations during my cool down phase. I feel it helps my ground myself in the day again, helps me mentally connect to my body and it’s needs, and reinforces positive thoughts and feelings about myself (no matter how well or how poorly my exercise session has been).
Interestingly, Meditating for 20 minutes after a workout it has been observed to give greater benefits to your body as it soothes your muscles and counter any side-effects which a hectic workout can bring to you. It’s definitely something you can explore for yourself.
What suits you?
When it comes to picking the best time of day or evening to Meditate, ultimately it’s going to be what suits your and your lifestyle.
No matter what time you choose, the benefits of Meditation such as improved breathing, lower cortisol levels, lower blood pressure and improved heart rate, which also help in improving digestion, mood and stress levels (just to name a few!) will be with you regardless.
Listen to your mind and body’s needs, and you cant go wrong.
Love & Light Jennifer
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- Healthline, High Cortisol Symptoms (2022) Available from https://bit.ly/3Mr0g9A (Accessed 12 May 2023)
- NHS, Mindfulness (2022) Available from https://bit.ly/3nZKTM2 (Accessed 10 May 2023)
- Physique 57, Guest Post: How To Combine Meditation With Exercise For Better Health Available from https://bit.ly/3Muurgs (Accessed 15 May 2023)
- The Mayo Clinic, Chronic Stress Puts Your Health At Risk (2021) Available from https://mayocl.in/3W2A4FA (Accessed 15 May 2023)
- The Mind Fool, Best Time To Meditate & It's Benefits, Available from https://bit.ly/3Od5VBK Accessed 14 May 2023)