A meditation practice is one of the simplest ways you can improve your mood, focus and quality of life. Making time in your day for meditation may be a challenge, but even short periods of practice can yield positive results. The time at which you meditate doesn’t necessarily change the benefit of the practice, but it can help influence your behavior and how you approach the various parts of your daily routine. This short guide explores when to meditate and how strategically scheduling your practice can serve you. It is not necessary to always meditate at the same time each day. (although daily practice is highly recommended!) Depending on what lifestyle factors are present in your life day to day, you may decide to change the times at which you meditate.
Meditating in the morning shortly after waking up is a great way to start your day with a clean mental slate and is an excellent opportunity for you to set goals and intentions for the day. There is good reason that many traditions stress the morning meditation practice! Setting the precedent for the day awaiting you is a powerful practice that carries forward even if you have a hectic day ahead. Rhythmic breathing routines will calm your body and mind and set the pace for your nervous system, bringing calm, focused awareness forward to the busier parts of your day.
Incorporating meditation into your lunch break is a valuable tool to interrupt and break repetitive thought cycles that crop up from our daily routines. Consciously shifting attention from “to do” to “I am” gives you a little space to step back from your task list, re center and approach your afternoon with a fresh perspective.
MEDITATING WHEN UNDER STRESS
If you catch yourself in the midst of a stress response (shallow breathing, increased pulse, feelings of anxiety) taking a short break to meditate can yield tremendous results. Not only does this calm the body down and reoxygenate the brain, it breaks the body’s tendency to react to workplace stressors (deadlines, assignments, miscommunications) with physical stress responses (increased levels of cortisol, acute stress response aka flight or fight).
It can be difficult to switch gears when in the midst of a stress response. A pranayama practice like the one below is an excellent bridge that brings the breath under conscious control and prepares the mind for meditation. You may find that the pranayama practice alone is enough to effectively break the stress cycle.
A meditation session between your workday and your evening at home provides a clear distinction between the two, allowing you to consciously choose what elements of your personality are the most appropriate for the evening ahead. Behavioural traits and mindsets that are productive and efficient in the office are not always welcome at the dinner table! A meditation session provides this transition time, allowing you to shift from doing to being.
MEDITATION BEFORE BED
Meditation after dinner can be a relaxing way to spend your evening. However, meditating right before bed can be counterproductive, especially if your practice is highly focused or involves single pointed concentration. These practices can make you feel more alert at a time when your body is winding down and disrupt your sleep cycle. Yoga Nidra is a wonderful alternative that is specifically a pre-sleep practice. It’s a gentle meditation that moves through the body, releasing physical tension while allowing the mind to disengage.
ANYTIME IS A GOOD TIME TO MEDITATE!
The "best" time of day for your meditation is going to be different for each person and different day to day. You may find that meditating during heavy traffic (eyes open!) is particularly useful, or right after a yoga class is the time that serves you best. Leave your "best" meditation times in the comments below!