More people are becoming aware of the positive benefits of a regular meditation practice, but struggle to find the best time of day to meditate.
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While it can bring many health benefits and help overcome the chronic stress that’s so prevalent in the modern world, practicing mindfulness meditation can bring about a sense of calm that helps energize and focus you for your day.
When you can learn to engage in a regular practice, it can help you cope with stress and help address a range of stress and anxiety related health problems. With all the potential benefits, learning to meditate is definitely worth the effort!
What are the benefits of meditating?
For thousands of years, those involved in the practice have been aware of mental and physical benefits. Learning to focus on the breath and observe your mental and emotional processes in nonjudgmental ways is one of the most effective relaxation techniques available to us. Regular practice can offer a range of long term physical and mental health benefits, including:
- reduce stress
- alleviating anxiety and depression
- lowering resting heart rate
- improve high blood pressure
- making you less reactive
- controlling racing thoughts
- promoting concentration
- improve memory
How do I meditate?
There are many ways to meditate, from guided meditations, to mantra meditation, to simply finding a focus on your breath for a few minutes of active non-doing. By learning how to focus on the present moment and allow intrusive thoughts to “wander away,” we become better at choosing the content of our thoughts in a given moment.
Be sure to check the other meditation resources on The Resilient Self for more detailed information on how to find your best option for meditation. There are also lots of helpful resources on the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center website. The UCLA website has a link to a wonderful FREE meditation app called UCLA Mindful. Of all the apps out there, this is one of the best and doesn’t throw up a bunch of pay walls – it really is free to use with full functionality.
How long should I meditate?
Many beginners are intimidated by the idea of sitting quietly over a long period of time. In fact, a psychological study by researchers at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville found that many people would prefer to suffer an electrical shock than sit quietly in a room for 15 minutes.
While research shows us that 10-15 minutes a day can have a significant benefit, I recommend we start with a much lower amount – more like 2 minutes to start.
Then you build from there as you develop good breathing and mental habits.
Consider this: a good respiration rate for mind/body calming is around 10 seconds per breath…. 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out (or some variation that adds up to 10). That’s 6 breaths per minute. Sometimes my beginning meditation students find it easier to think in terms of number of breaths. Even 2 minutes can sound intimidating, but thinking about the number of breaths can make it less so.
When should I meditate?
Finding the ideal time is very much a matter of personal practice. You just need to find a time that works with your personal life. Whether you meditate in the morning, on your lunch break, or some other time you can get some personal time and space. It seems new meditators use two distinct approaches:
- As a rescue when you’re anxious or upset. This is certainly an option, and when you’re amped up, some deep breath work can help calm the nervous system and help reset your day for the better.
- At pre-determined times throughout your week. This is my preferred approach. When you can make practice part of your daily routine, you actually train your mind to be more calm and focused. It becomes a practice instead of simply a reactionary response to help rescue you in times of distress.
Now when you become distressed, by all means, rescue away! But, a regular meditation practice is the real Ninja-level work that helps build in the ability to choose our mental processes instead of being controlled by them. Some people find the middle of the day to be a great time, but you can definitely find what works best for you.
Think of meditation as personal training for your brain. You start small, build strength and flexibility, and increase gradually over time. If you catch your mind wandering, you refocus, practice compassion for yourself in the moment, and continue. Through persistence and consistency, you get better at sitting quietly with your own thoughts and feelings, holding space for them meeting them with love and acceptance.
The more you can do this for yourself, the more you can hopefully do it for others.