July 18, 2024
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Is there a best time to meditate? Here’s what experts say will help you get the most out of your practice

Meditation has become a bedrock solution for improving mental health.

Research has endorsed the benefits of meditation—such as improved focus and diminished feelings of anxiety and depression. Meditating can also enhance emotional regulation, perspective-taking, and self-processing, helping us slow down our breathing to decrease stress.

Experts say you can meditate anywhere—even on your commute to work (but don’t close your eyes for this one). Some people squeeze in a five- to 10-minute session when they wake up before a busy day. Others incorporate it into their wind-down routine or their lunch break at work.

But is there a perfect time to meditate to reap optimal benefits?

Experts say maybe, but emphasize that frequency is the key to get the most out of your practice.

Early bird vs. night owl meditation

Dr. Stacie Stephenson, a functional medicine doctor and author of Glow: 90 Days to Create Your Vibrant Life from Within, touts the early bird’s meditation.

“Meditation can set the tone for the day,” she tells Fortune.

Meditating at a certain time, like right when you wake up, can also ensure people stick with the practice and feel the long-term benefits.

“Meditating on a schedule might help you do it more regularly,” Stephenson says. “If you have time set aside to do it every day, you will notice the beneficial effects sooner.”

However, as conventional wisdom suggests, regularity is more important than missing something because the timing is too strict. Individual schedules and preferences play into the optimal meditation time, Dora Kamau, a mindfulness meditation teacher at Headspace, tells Fortune. Reflecting on when you’re less motivated or have a break in your day, for example, can help you set the right time.

While some may benefit from meditation after exercise to calm the body, others may fit it in at a particular time each day—the minutiae of when and where become less paramount.

“The most optimal time of day is the time that will allow you to stay consistent with your practice,” Kamau says. “If you’re a morning person, then meditating to begin your day may be the best time for you. If you struggle with sleep, meditation can help you to settle the mind and body, so doing it before bed may be beneficial as well.”

Carving out the time

Setting an intention for the practice and understanding your goals encourages you to stick with it. Kamau recommends asking yourself the following questions to find the ideal meditation time:

  • What is your motivation and intention for deciding to incorporate meditation into your everyday life?
  • What is a feasible time in your day that you can incorporate meditation into your routine?
  • How much time would you like to meditate for everyday that is sustainable, achievable, and practical? Three minutes? Five minutes? 10 minutes?
  • Are there any possible barriers to incorporating a time for meditation in your day? How can you work around these barriers?

“Any meditation is better than no meditation,” Stephenson says. “If that means closing your eyes and breathing deeply for five minutes during your lunch hour or coffee break or when the baby is napping, you will still benefit, especially if you do it on a regular basis. The benefits of meditation are cumulative.”

How long should I meditate?

Research suggests meditating for 13 minutes each day for eight weeks improves memory, emotional regulation, and mood; however, experts say there’s no golden number.

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