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best time to meditate

When Is The Best Time To Meditate?

Meditation has certainly risen in popularity in recent years, but many often wonder - “when is the best time to meditate?”. Even though there are centuries of history behind the practice, meditation is intensely personal, and this has an impact on when you should meditate and how you should practice. 

With this article, we’ll explore the world of meditation, looking at what it involves, some of its benefits, and explore all the answers to the question of ‘what is the best time to meditate?’. 

We’ll also look at how you can get started with this mindfulness practice, and explore everything you’ll need to know to work out the best time to meditate for you and your personal schedule.

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What is Meditation?

At its most basic level, meditation has always been considered a spiritual practice, with its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. However, in recent times, the contemplative nature of meditation has become an exercise for self care and personal well-being, particularly in the modern Western world.

At its core, meditation is a set of techniques to lead and encourage you to find a heightened state of awareness and learn to focus your attention on the self and the world around you. This is usually achieved through periods of contemplation, done either sitting, lying down, or moving through a series of repetitive motions.

Unlike the common perception, meditation is a skill; it takes time, dedication, and knowing what is the best time of day to meditate to reach a level where you can concentrate for a substantial amount of time. 

Meditation practice can be done through several different techniques, which we’ll discuss in more detail later in this article. These are also often applied to various different types of yoga styles, meaning the skills aren’t completely exclusive to meditation.

Some types of meditation use a technique called mindfulness, which is where you focus on the present and the world around you. It’s a principle designed to connect you with your current self, and learn to appreciate each moment as it is.

Other meditation techniques encourage you to focus on a specific object or thought in order to narrow your thoughts on the world around you. Alternatively you can choose to concentrate on your breathing, or a specific action like relaxing each part of your body in turn to reset your mind.

Meditation is not about changing who you are, or trying to become a new or different person - it is about learning how to observe and understand your feelings without judging them or yourself, and connecting them with the outside world. 

Reducing stress or anxiety through meditation helps you to be an active participant in your own life, and improve your overall mental health. If you’re seeking a more active way to improve your psychological wellbeing, though, check out our complete report on the mental health benefits of running.

Is There A Best Time In The Day To Meditate?

Meditation is practised all over the world, and many have different ideas on when is the best time to meditate. One common question that gets asked is ‘why is 4am the best time to meditate?’.  

Traditionally, the best time to meditate was 3am to 4am, i.e. in the early morning roughly 2 and a half hours before the sun had risen. This was because that time was often referred to as the ‘ambrosial hours’, where the energies of the world and yourself are most supportive to spiritual work. 

Of course, getting up at 3am is not always practical or possible for most people nowadays, so the best time to meditate has had to adapt. Thus, the modern day interpretation has changed to choosing when to meditate according to personal preference and your natural circadian rhythm. 

Your circadian rhythm is your own internal clock over 24 hours, which includes the sleep-wake cycle and dictates when you feel most alert or tired. This also gives you a much more complete picture of your energy levels, and how receptive you might be to the benefits of meditation.

Ultimately, finding the best time to meditate for you will ensure that the practice can be as advantageous as possible.

When is the Best Time to Meditate: Before or After Exercise?

You may find yourself wondering whether you should time your meditation to before or after you reap the benefits of regular exercise. More specifically, the question is whether you should meditate before or after a workout. 

Generally, the best time to meditate is after you have completed a workout because exercise releases any tension you may have been carrying from stress or from your daily activities. 

It will be easier to fall into a meditative state because you’re more relaxed and open to calming the mind. You will also find it easier to sit and focus because you’ll have worked through any frustrations, and the endorphins from exercise mean you’ll have a more positive mindset. 

You may find yourself being able to meditate for longer after exercise because of this prepared positive mindset.

If you have chosen to do a yoga routine, it will be even easier to fit a meditation session after your practice because not only will you have already been doing the breath work that is common for meditation, but many yoga routines (such as kundalini yoga) actively encourage meditation at the end. 

This is done by ending in shavasana (savasana), also known as corpse pose, where you lie on the ground and concentrate on stillness - and is one of the easiest and best times to meditate.

How To Find The Best Time To Meditate

Everyone has different schedules and circadian rhythms, and truthfully there is no single best time in the day to meditate. The main advice is to try different times and figure out what is the best time to meditate for your lifestyle.

Once you’ve decided on the best time to meditate for you, you need to make it a daily habit so that you can get the most from your practice. 

This is why it’s better for you to find your own time instead of listening to someone else or copying someone’s routine, because it needs to be something you can maintain. Below we have analysed different times from which you can choose when to meditate and their advantages.

 

Best Time to Meditate: Morning

If you are one of those people who can wake up early and be alert straight away, morning might be the best time of day to meditate for you. 

Your meditation can be done when you first wake up, so that you can get in a positive and productive head space for the day. Dawn is often considered a transitional time, where the night is ending and a new day is beginning. This may have an additional effect on your mindset in the morning and you may find meditation easier.

Meditating in the morning also enables you to practise on an empty stomach, which has traditionally been thought to be beneficial. It also echoes the traditional best time to meditate of 3am, but in a more manageable way for the modern world.

For many of you, it may also be easier to keep a habit first thing in the morning, before you start any of your daily tasks, and you are less distracted by other things because your day hasn't started yet. You can then begin your usual morning routine, and enjoy the benefits of black coffee after you’ve undertaken some mindfulness.

The world is quieter and calmer in the morning before everyone else is awake, which may help you to concentrate better.

Best Time To Meditate: Midday

If you’re not a morning person, you might find that the best time to meditate is at midday, or around lunchtime. Because you’re more likely to be awake, you don’t run the risk of falling asleep mid practice, and you will have eaten breakfast so you won’t be distracted by your hunger.

For tips on a healthy, energising breakfast, check out our complete guide to the best foods for energy in the morning.

The rest of the world will also be up and about, which could either be distracting or provide a real life soundtrack to your meditation. Choosing a meditation or yoga playlist could help with this, or you may find that taking time in the middle of your day to listen to the world around you helps to ground you, and re-centre your mind for the day ahead.

Meditating at midday allows you to carve a space between the energies of the outside world and your own internal pace, so that you can take a breather and refocus for the rest of your day and any work you still need to do.

If you worry about getting all of your daily tasks done, midday meditation may be the best choice because you can get your day started and do some tasks in the morning. 

This allows you to take some time for yourself without stressing about completing your to-do list or worrying too much about distractions.

Best Time To Meditate: Afternoon

If neither of the above options are sustainable for you, afternoon might be the best time in the day for you to meditate. Most likely the working day is already over or close to being done, so you can use meditation to help you unwind from the stress of work. 

Alternatively, you may want to get a small mid-afternoon burst of clarity for some of the last tasks of the day. If you have evening plans, a short afternoon meditation can help you to refocus and shake off the tiredness of the day and allow you to enjoy yourself with a clear head.

Meditating after work can also offer you some space between your professional and personal life, giving you a better chance at maintaining a healthy work life balance. 

If you have a commute to and from work, you could use the time for a practice where you connect to the world around you. This is especially easy to make a habit as you are already doing it as part of your daily routine, and including it as part of your usual walk to work is exceptionally easy.

Best Time to Meditate: Evening

Finally, some of you may be night owls where you are at your most comfortable in the evening whilst everyone else is winding down. This may be the best time to meditate as your focus is better and you can relax easier.

If you meditate in the evening, you are more likely to be at home and you can find a private space to set yourself down and release the day’s tension. You also aren’t going to be distracted by your daily tasks, and you’ll have few distractions competing for your time. 

Like dawn, dusk is also a transitional period where the fading of the day turns into the stillness of night, which can be more helpful for spiritual or introspective meditation. 

Finally, meditating in the evening offers you the chance to wind down before bed, because the world has returned to a quieter state. This can also help you have a more restful sleep, which may help your physical and mental health in the long run. 

If you’re looking for more ways to combine your mindfulness practices with rest, explore our guide to yoga nidra, a restful form of meditative practice.

Although, if you aren’t looking to help with your sleep, it’s actually best if you leave an hour or so between practising and bedtime so that you don’t accidentally fall asleep.

Tips for Meditation

While we’re primarily exploring the best time in the day to meditate, it’s equally important to understand how best to undertake your meditation, and why you might choose to do it in a specific way.

#1 - Choose a Peaceful Place

One of the most important parts of meditation is that you have minimal distractions, especially if you’re new to learning how and when to meditate. Being distracted can cause you to forget key elements of mindfulness, and lose sight of why you’re meditating in the first place.

You need to be able to practice somewhere quiet where you won’t have any disruptions that can prevent you from practising to the best of your ability. We’d suggest using a spare room if you have it, or a quiet corner at home.

Privacy is also important because you need to be able to feel comfortable. Sometimes it can feel silly at the beginning, so a peaceful and secluded place is vital to continue practising, and to overcome any initial feelings of embarrassment or worry.

#2  - Be Aware Of Your Posture

You want to be comfortable when you meditate, so checking in with your posture lets you get a feel for what works for you. Posture is absolutely pivotal in all forms of exercise, and there’s numerous benefits to good posture and form. However, your pose for meditation doesn’t need to follow a set form.

Unlike more stereotypical depictions of meditative poses, you don’t need to be sat cross legged with the back of your hands resting on your knees. And while there’s an array of advantages of good flexibility, you won’t need to be able to adopt difficult postures.

It’s great if that’s how you feel comfortable, but lying down, sitting on a chair or your bed with your feet grounded on the floor works just as well. Meditation is ultimately an individual pursuit, and much of that is finding what works for you, and how you can incorporate that into your routine.

However, following the basic principles of good posture is still advised. Maintaining a straight back and keeping your shoulders properly aligned can significantly improve any benefits you get from meditation, as well as preventing any existing postural issues from worsening.

#3 - Commit To The Same Time Everyday

In order to see the best results, you need to commit to practising at the same time every day. Not only will this help you establish a routine (for example, you might do it before breakfast and running to work), but you’ll also start to build in healthy psychological habits, too.

This also helps you to create the habit, because it will be something set everyday to arrange your schedule around, and anchor your day to as we might do with mealtimes or the school run.

Your mind will get used to your routine and may even start to preemptively react to your practice, allowing you to become more mindful in your practice, and therefore be more receptive to the myriad benefits of meditating. 

It’s important to find and maintain the best time to meditate for you, and allow yourself to structure key parts of your day around that.

#4 - Take A Walk

If you struggle to stay still for an extended period of time, you may want to consider meditating whilst walking, especially in a more rural or relaxing area, as you’ll be able to connect with nature and the world around you. 

With meditative walking, you can still focus on your breathing, your steps, or even your surroundings whilst getting time for yourself away from distractions of the workplace or home. 

This comes with the additional benefit of being able to track your steps and plot out your route with one of the best walking apps. You’re then able to use that route multiple times, and establish a routine that works for you.

As we’ve just touched upon, using your commute as you walk to work may be the best time to meditate like this as you also have the benefit of fresh air to help you concentrate.

#5 - Try A Meditation App

Trying a meditation app might be helpful if you struggle with making and maintaining new habits or holding yourself accountable to practising every day. This can be difficult for a variety of reasons, such as a busy schedule or a hectic household, but meditation apps can significantly help with that.

For instance, inputting your times can help you with a sense of achievement and can help to keep you motivated, as well as providing a log of all the meditative sessions you’ve completed. 

Many apps come with guided meditations, which might be a good idea if you need some help in the beginning, or simply enjoy a guided session. You might also choose to incorporate meditation into yoga, too - explore our pick of the best free yoga apps to get started.

Using tools, such as these apps, to get started is an ideal way to introduce meditation into your schedule if you’ve never tried it before, or you’ve struggled with it in the past.

#6 - Start Short and Simple

Although you may want to start with a long session, especially if you’re feeling stressed, you need to remember that meditation is trickier than it seems and beginning with 45 minutes is unrealistic. 

Struggling with long practices can lead to you getting demotivated and quitting before you really have a chance to get into it. You might also find that launching into longer meditations quickly will leave you feeling exhausted, and therefore less receptive to meditation’s benefits. 

Once you’ve decided on the best time to meditate, ease yourself in with a couple of minutes at a time to get a feel for what you’re doing. When you’ve gotten better you can start on longer practices.

We’ve also compiled a complete beginner’s guide to yoga, if you’re looking to extend your meditative practices, and become much more comfortable and mindful during your sessions.

#7 - Don’t Focus On Progress

Meditation is not something that you’re going to necessarily see results from immediately, and certainly not straight away. It’s a longer, introspective process that can never really be completed, but is incredibly beneficial when included as part of a routine.

One crucial thing to note is that this does mean that you cannot focus on the results, particularly because the process is slower, and you won’t necessarily see instant results. 

Focusing too much on your progress, especially in the short term, could cause you to lose motivation quickly, and potentially even end up quitting altogether. 

Our advice would be to take it day by day and practice by practice, and in the future you will be able to see how far you’ve come. This can often be where you combine this with a meditation app or dedicated fitness journal to keep track of your sessions.  

#8 - Remember The Benefits

If you’re getting frustrated with your practice or struggling with choosing the best time to meditate, try to remember what attracted you to meditation in the first place, and how completing these sessions will ultimately benefit you. 

Whether it was to reduce stress, help with anxiety, or simply to take some time for yourself and your mental health, remembering why you started can reignite your passion for meditation.

For more information on how mindfulness and exercise go hand-in-hand, check out OriGym’s complete overview of the benefits of running, and how fitness can completely revolutionise your psychological health.

You need to remember that it will be hard, but you are doing this for a good reason and that can help you stay positive, even through tougher times or stressful situations in life. 

#9 - Be Realistic With Your Goals

As we have said many times above, meditation is a skill that takes time to develop. It’s unfortunately only a skill that comes with plenty of practice, focus and determination, and as you might imagine, that can’t develop overnight.

With this in mind, you need to set realistic goals for when to meditate or you won’t be able to achieve what you want in a realistic timeframe. Goals can help you to apportion your time better, visualise the progress you’re making, and look back on how far you’ve come.

If you are goal oriented, set small targets with a corresponding reward to keep yourself motivated and inspired. In fitness, we often refer to these as SMART goals, and they help you to break down large goals into smaller, more manageable targets.

Be kind to yourself and do little and often, because you can build on each successive achievement.

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How to Start Meditating

Whilst all this can seem overwhelming, it’s important not to panic, or feel daunted by getting started with meditation. We’ve listed some of the key tips on how to get started on your meditation journey. 

#1 - Establishing A Routine

Learning when to meditate requires you to establish a routine that you can stick to, so once you've chosen the best time of day to meditate, you need to add it to your daily routine to make it easier to continue.

This can then form a key part of your schedule, and as you might do with an exercise class like Zumba, you’ll be able to structure other commitments and obligations around that key part of your day. 

However, if you struggle with clearing time in your schedule to add things in, why not incorporate meditation into something you already do? 

This could be when you wake up, on your commute to work, or even when you’re doing the dishes - as long as you pick something repetitive that you can do whilst focusing inwards you'll be able to incorporate valuable meditation time into your schedule.

#2 - Finding a Meditation Guide

If you’re finding it difficult to know where to start, a meditation guide is a great resource for beginners, as well as those who are more established in their meditating habits. 

These sessions are easy to fit around your chosen best time to meditate, and can often provide new and unique ways to build in new meditative practices into your day-to-day routines.

There are dozens of apps out there that offer guided meditation practices, as well as tracking all of the meditation sessions you complete. Many also tailor their meditations for mental health, including stress management, confidence building and more. 

If podcasts are more your style, Spotify has loads of different playlists to choose from. Some offer short practices for anxiety, self-awareness, and positivity, whereas others have natural sounds from the outside world or music to provide background noise.

You might also choose to couple this meditative soundscape with one of Spotify’s best yoga playlists, in order to diversify what you listen to as you drift away into a calmer headspace.

#3 - Getting Comfortable

Starting something new can be a daunting prospect, so we’d strongly advise trying to make yourself as comfortable as possible. This can be something as simple as adjusting your seating position, or sitting down on the nearest available chair.

If you can, coinciding with your best time in the day to meditate when you’re at home makes it much easier to be comfortable in your surroundings. You can meditate anywhere you want in your house; in bed, on the sofa or even in the bath.

Or alternatively, use any space in your home as a meditation area - we’d recommend putting down your best yoga mat or a yoga blanket, and relaxing as much as possible.

If you can’t meditate at home, one way to make yourself more comfortable is through your clothes. Try to wear something relaxed and loose fitting so you don’t need to worry about any snags when you’re sitting down. 

Obviously, you may not be able to do this if you have a work uniform; in this case try loosening your tie or top buttons or taking off your shoes to make things more comfortable for you.

#4 - Setting A Timer

When you’re first getting started, you’re better off doing short practices until you get used to anything longer. This means you won’t lose interest, and that you can start to build up gradually to longer meditation sessions.

Setting a timer is a really helpful way to mark how long your practices are, and makes it easier to stick to a certain length without getting distracted. You can do this on your phone, or use something else in the house to set the time by (even if it’s just the kettle boiling for your usual cup of green tea).

Many meditation apps will offer this service as part of their package, but the timer setting on your phone or tablet will work just as well. We’d advise using a gentler alert tone for when the timer finishes, though.

Ultimately, this is just an option for convenience, and ensuring you can start meditating in the best way possible.

#5 - Finding a Community

Although meditation is a personal journey, that’s not to say that you have to go it alone. Having friends and family along for the ride not only helps to keep you accountable with your own practice, but also encourages other people to take the time and look after their mental health.

You’re also able to swap tips and tricks on what works for you when looking for how to get the most out of your meditative practices, which can be invaluable if you’re struggling to get started, or you’re unsure of how to progress.

Depending on when’s the best time to meditate for you, another option is to reach out to the wider meditation community. This can be either through social media or your local gym or leisure centre. 

This will get you in touch with new people, who can offer advice or company throughout your meditation. Exercising with others also comes with its own unique advantages - explore more in our complete guide to benefits of group exercise

#6 - Asking An Expert

As we’ve said before, meditation is harder than it seems at first so if you’re unsure how to start or when to meditate, a good tip is to try consulting an expert. They’re likely to have been meditating for a long period of time, and will have considerable experience in the field. 

This could be through an app, an online forum or through social media. YouTube has lots of channels run by meditation experts that you can comment on and ask questions, and you can also visit the pages of any local gyms or wellness centres to get advice on your meditation practice.

Alternatively, a local class could be a great option for you to get information from an expert as well as helping you build your practice into your routine. This will be run by a qualified professional, and provide you with practice and implementable advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Should You Meditate?

Now that you know what meditation involves and how to choose the best time to meditate, you may also be wondering why you should practice, and what scientifically proven benefits there are to doing so.

As we’ve already touched upon, meditation can have a hugely positive impact on our anxiety and stress levels, reducing them and allowing us to continue with our daily routine without the usual worries we might have.

In fact, a recent study found that mindfulness meditation can reduce stress, and even improve the body's inflammatory response to stress, so the ability to meditate is useful for relaxation and beneficial for mental health.

Additionally, choosing the best time of day to meditate and sticking to it helps develop a routine, which in turn can help maintain a positive mental attitude. This is often true of how we establish exercise schedules - learn more in our comprehensive guide to rest days and their importance.

Should You Do Guided Or Unguided Meditation?

The answer to this is wholly your choice depending on what you are looking for, and after you’ve decided on when is the best time to meditate during your day. Time can often play a pivotal role in whether you choose guided  or unguided meditation.

Guided meditation is great if you are just starting out, because whoever is running your session will explain what to expect, and help you get into the right state of mind. It is also easier to focus on someone’s voice in the beginning instead of going it alone. 

Opting for guided meditation can also mean you’re meditating with others who might just be starting the process, and can therefore offer reassurance and tips on how best to progress.

As you progress, and you start to feel more comfortable with meditating, you could choose unguided meditation as it allows you to practice as you want and choose your own topic to explore, or music to listen to.

Music often plays an important role in our exercise and mindfulness practices - learn more in our report on how music aids performance in fitness.

Is Meditation Harmful?

Typically, meditation is not harmful and following your own routine around the best time to meditate can actually help to reduce stress and anxiety, especially if these are issues that you struggle with on a regular basis.

In our previous sections, we’ve discussed how meditation can be incredibly helpful for those who suffer from persistent mental health issues, or those that struggle with anxiety or depression.

Scientific evidence further supports this, with recent studies finding little evidence to suggest meditation can be harmful for mental health, with the test group actually showing an improvement in their symptoms. 

However, while it is incredibly beneficial for many, it won’t always work. Some can find introspection difficult or too stressful, and this can lead to a less relaxing experience. Others might be unable to switch off, and prefer intensive exercise (such as cross training) to alleviate symptoms of anxiety.

If you do feel that you are being affected by anything in your meditation practice, stop immediately, and discuss your feelings with a mental health professional for how to proceed.

How Long Should You Meditate For?

Knowing when to meditate is one thing, but you also need to consider how long you should meditate for. This is especially important if you’re just starting your meditation journey, or you’re coming back to it after a long break.

In the beginning, it is best to try to meditate for a few minutes at a time, building up to 10 - 15 minutes. This is so that you don’t get demotivated, especially when you are not used to meditation and the focus needed. 

Further into your practice, you can build up to 45 minutes to an hour, so that you can get the maximum from each session, and start to experience the benefits that mindfulness practices can bring.

Learn more about these varied advantages with our complete guide to the benefits of practicing yoga every day.

It may be that for you, the best time in the day to meditate is spread out through your day, in which case you can do several shorter sessions. With this you can re-centre multiple times a day to improve your concentration.

What Should You Think About When You’re Meditating?

This is again entirely a personal choice that you can decide on after you’ve chosen when to meditate, and for how long and how often you wish to practice. What you think about during your meditation is less important than deciding on the key aspects of it.

Some people focus on their breathing or movements, whereas others might opt to focus on an object or a thought. You can even pick a sense to focus on, thinking about what you can hear, see, touch or smell. 

Certain types of yoga (such as nada yoga) require the participant to focus on specific sounds, and channel that through their bodies as part of the meditation practice. 

Overall, you should focus on one thing, and allow the influence of the outside world to quieten as you go through your practice. This means you’ll be able to better connect with the more spiritual aspects of meditation, and get the most out of your practice.

Before You Go!

Whether you were looking to answer ‘what is the best time to meditate?’, or ‘why is 4am the best time to meditate?’, our article has covered every aspect of meditating, and exactly when you should do it.

The main element to remember is that meditation relies on personal agency and individual choice. You are the force that drives your practice, and choosing when is the best time to meditate is no different. 

But if you’re keen to take your prowess with mindfulness to new heights, then perhaps a career in the fitness industry is your next step.

OriGym’s industry-leading personal training diploma offers you the ultimate training package, with expert guidance available 7 days a week, free examination resits, and a guaranteed interview when you graduate.

Download our FREE prospectus today, or submit an enquiry to hear back from one of our team of dedicated fitness experts.

References

  1. Rosenkranz, M.A., Davidson, R.J., MacCoon, D.G., Sheridan, J.F., Kalin, N.H., Lutz, A., (2013). A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 27, 174-184
  2. Hirshberg, M., Goldberg, S., Rosenkranz, M., & Davidson, R. (2020). Prevalence of harm in mindfulness-based stress reduction. Psychological Medicine, 1-9. doi:10.1017/S0033291720002834

Written by Rachel Stevens

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Rachel is a freelance content writer and fitness enthusiast based in Liverpool. She completed her BA (Hons) in Egyptology and Ancient History, followed by a MA in Ancient History, at the University of Liverpool. She has a keen interest in many water-based sports, like kayaking, in which she holds a 1-star qualification with the intention of progressing further. She is an avid reader, runner and yoga enthusiast.

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