When’s the best time to meditate? The short answer to this common question is: Any time that works for you and your schedule. Consistency is the key, so any time that you will actually be able to sit down to meditate consistently is the best time for you.
With that said, I can offer my perspective on the benefits of certain times of day. What works for me may not work for you, though. So try out different times of day and discover your best bet!
A Case for the Mornings
I love meditating as soon as I wake up. Here’s why:
- Nothing can get in the way of that meditation if I refrain from checking my phone, email, or getting involved with any other activity before sitting. I wake up a little earlier than I used to, I take care of bathroom business, and I meditate. It’s that simple. You really have the best shot at following through with your meditations if it’s before other activities begin.
- Mornings are generally quiet compared to any other time of the day—it’s the time before meetings, classes, responsibilities, and emails. It’s helpful to match the quiet mode of meditation to the time of day that has similar energy.
- I’m really not great at making decisions as soon as I wake up (I can’t imagine anyone is), so with this routine, there’s nothing to decide. What should I do this morning? The answer is always: Meditate. There’s nothing else to remember or consider. When you’re done with meditation, you can think about the rest of your day with a clearer mind space.
- The first thing you do when you wake up will set the tone for your entire day. If you want to move through your day with ease, energy, awareness and confidence, start your day with activities that encourage those states of mind, like meditation.
Use those 10 minutes from the snooze button—or the first 5, 20, or 30 minutes of your day—to settle the mind and be still.
Advice for Non-Morning People
If you’re not a morning person and want to transform into a creature of the a.m., consider this advice:
- Keep your blinds open to let the light in at sunrise. It’s harder to get up when it’s dark. This obviously doesn’t work if your goal is to get up before sunrise, in which case you can turn your light on as soon as your alarm sounds.
- Splash cold water on your face as soon as you wake if you find that refreshing and energizing.
- Splash hot water on your face when you wake if that feels good.
- Take a deep inhalation with peppermint oil under your nose to energize your senses.
- Hop in the shower first thing.
- Exercise before you do anything. Getting endorphins pumping is an effective way to charge your mind and body.
- Don’t make giant changes overnight. It won’t work if you are someone who hates waking up before 10:00 a.m., is used to going to bed after 2:00 a.m., and you try to shift your schedule four hours earlier overnight. Move your wake-up time slowly and implement morning rituals incrementally.
A Case for Evenings
A post-work meditation will help you ease the transition between work and home life. Meditating between work and home is great way to transition from one chapter of your day to the next. For many of us, we play very different roles at work and at home. Think of post-work meditation like a reset button to create some separation from your different roles in life.
If you’re looking for greater work-life balance, taking time to consciously let go of whatever may have happened during the day and refocus your energy on family, friends, and evening projects or activities is a productive first step. Post-work meditation will help you take control of your personal time—and will generally benefit you and your loved ones tremendously.
How Can I Possibly Fit This Into My Crazy Evening Schedule?
The excuses may enter the picture again here, with full force. You might be thinking that you’re usually running late to get the kids, make dinner for your spouse, go to yoga, or meet up with your friends for happy hour . . . how will this possibly work?
All you need is five minutes to get organized for the next workday and five minutes of quiet to let go of your busy day and de-stress.
Here’s how: About five or ten minutes before you need to leave the office, wrap up your work and create a list of to-dos for the next day. Make any notes you don’t want to forget about, problems that will need to be solved, and items that will be your high-priority to-dos the next time you return to work.
Then, you need to find the five minutes of quiet. Here are some possibilities of when and where you can squeeze in that post-work meditation:
Before You Leave Work
If you have a commute from work, meditating before you hop in the car or on the train will take the edge off of the commute. Once you get organized for the next day, turn off your computer, and sit quietly at your desk with your eyes closed so you can hit the inner reset button before you head home.
If you don’t feel comfortable meditating at your desk, if it’s too distracting for you, or if you just don’t want to associate your meditation with work, try taking five minutes in your car before you drive home. Of course make sure this happens before you start your car.
On Your Commute
If you’re not the one driving on the commute, try a short meditation on the bus, train, or subway.
If you are driving—and meditating at work or home don’t sound appealing—find a park or quiet space on your way home to break up the commute, connect with nature, and let go of the worries from your day.
When You Get Home
If you find that your commute is particularly stress inducing—and some of the stress you are bringing home is actually coming FROM your commute—you can take some time to meditate as soon as you get home from work.
If you know you can’t find a quiet place inside, try a short meditation in your car outside your house. Park and turn your car off, then find a few minutes to sit quietly in meditation before walking into the house. This is especially helpful if you have young kids or social roommates.
If you can walk in the door and right away meditate somewhere that’s quiet, waiting until you get home is a great option. But make sure you do it as soon as you walk in the door and before you do anything else. Your significant other, family, and roommates will support you—and thank you—when they realize that it will help you become more present with them.
It’s important to highlight that after work is a far better time than later in the night to meditate. Some people find that their meditations energize, so practicing too close to bedtime may disrupt sleep patterns. Others find that if they meditate too close to bed, they will just fall asleep. The window between work and home is your best bet.
During Your Lunch Break
Lunchtime can be a great slot for your meditation. If your job is stressful, a mid-day meditation can help you release some of that stress and help you start your afternoons refreshed. Close the door to your office, find a quiet nook, or head outside and carve out a slice of your lunch hour to meditate. Stick with it every day for a month to make it a habit.
When You Feel Stress Surface
As soon as you notice stress begin to rise, or the feeling that you are running out of time, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Sometimes all you need to do is take a quiet moment to slow down your thoughts and settle your state, so you can focus on action items instead of the thoughts that you have too much to do.
So this may not have answered the question definitively, but hopefully it gave you some great ideas on when to meditate. You’ll have to try them out and discover for yourself when the best time is for your meditations.
*This post was adapted from the book, The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People.