How to Use Morning Meditation to Start Your Day
Meditating when you first wake up can set the tone for the day and increase mindfulness. Learn how to start your morning meditation and how it benefits your health.
Start your day with morning meditation
Your alarm wakes you at 7 a.m. You take a shower, brush your teeth, and then sit down in a quiet spot to meditate for 10 or 20 minutes before anyone else in the house wakes up. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
Meditation is having a moment. The practice may be thousands of years old, but it’s become mainstream in the past several years, thanks in part to high-profile fans (think Oprah) and reports of the mental and physical health benefits that a consistent practice promises.
“It sets the tone for the day and gets your ‘mindfulness muscle’ activated,” says Neda Gould, director of the mindfulness program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Musician Alicia Keys and other A-list celebrities say morning meditation is a big part of their daily self-care routines.
Benefits of meditation
The medical literature is knee-deep in studies that support the benefit of consistent meditation. Take, for instance, a study that appeared in a 2019 issue of Behavioural Brain Research. When people who’d never meditated before started doing a 13-minute guided meditation session daily for eight weeks, they reported less anxiety, negative moods, and fatigue. They also improved memory and attention compared with their counterparts who listened to a podcast instead.
And a small study published in a 2020 issue of The Journal of Positive Psychology found that 15 minutes of meditation a day can make you feel like you spent an entire day on vacation. In other words, it leaves you relaxed, refreshed, and recharged.
But meditation doesn’t just affect your mind. A study of more than 61,000 people found that the 10 percent of people who said they participated in some form of meditation had lower rates of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease than those who didn’t meditate. One caveat: the study wasn’t designed to show cause and effect. It could be that people who are in better health are more likely to meditate, the authors note in The American Journal of Cardiology.
Why morning is a good time to meditate
There’s nothing magical about morning when it comes to accruing the benefits of mediation. Morning is a popular time for mediation because it is often the calm before the storm, says Cortland Dahl, chief contemplative officer at Healthy Minds Innovations and a research scientist at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Morning comes before we get into our hectic day and our endless to-do lists,” he says. “We also have a consistent and predictable set of things that we do every morning. The rest of the day is not always like that.”
Read on to get tips for how to use meditation to start your day.
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Tie meditation to your morning routine
Meditation is more likely to become a habit if it piggybacks on an existing routine, says Dahl. “Every morning, I make my cup of coffee and go meditate,” he says.
Your routine may look different, depending on how you spend your mornings. You might grab coffee, do some morning brain exercises, then settle in for meditation. Maybe you roll out of bed and immediately meditate. Or maybe you need a quick shower to wake up before you begin your practice. There’s no best way—just the way that works best for you.
Regardless of how or when you meditate, the key is doing it consistently. That’s where the benefits come from, Dahl says.
To do this, start with small, manageable goals and reasonable expectations. Even mini meditations can relieve stress and anxiety. “Instead of saying, ‘I will mediate every morning going forward,’ go week by week,” Dahl says.
And be specific and actionable in your goals. “Say, ‘I will have my cup of coffee and then do a 10-minute meditation right after,'” he says. After a week passes, reflect on how well it worked and see if there is anything you need to tweak to be more consistent.
Meditation benefits don’t occur overnight. Expecting instant results is just one of many meditation mistakes that secretly stress you out. It can take up to three months to start noticing a difference in how you feel, Dahl says.
If you find yourself wondering, “Why is this not working?!” you’re not alone. Have a laugh at some meditation memes and take comfort in the fact that you’re going through a process that countless others have been through.
Set yourself up to win
If you are not a morning person, it’s not realistic to think you will wake up earlier to meditate. (Chances are, night owls will just end up dozing through their session.) “Find the best time for you,” Gould says. Maybe that’s after dinner or before bed.
Types of morning meditation practices
There are many types of meditation, and some may be better suited to mornings, Dahl says.
A purpose- and value-driven mediation practice can be guided (a certified instructor will talks you through it) or done on your own. During this type of meditation practice, you set clear intentions for your day, tying them to your purpose and values.
“You may decide to make this day about kindness or leaving the world better than you found it,” says Dahl. “This is very well suited to morning because it sets the tone for your day.”
Instead of focusing on your breathing or repeating a mantra, which you’d do with other meditation practices), you concentrate on your purpose while meditating in a quiet place.
With transcendental mediation, you’ll practice twice a day for 20 minutes each. With this practice, morning and evening meditation makes sense.
Check out these free meditation resources to see if one suits your style.
Go at your own pace
The first time you meditate, you may think you’re doing it wrong. Should you be paying attention to something else? Should your mind be totally blank? Should you be having so many darn thoughts? Truth is, all of that is normal at the start of a practice.
Instead of worrying about whether you’re meditating correctly, focus on practicing every day, even if it’s just for five minutes. Not only will you reap physical rewards, but you’ll also greet the day in a relaxed state of mind.
Next up: When it comes to meditation vs. hypnosis, which is better?
- Cortland Dahl, PhD, chief contemplative officer at Healthy Minds Innovations and a research scientist at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Neda Gould, PhD, director of the mindfulness program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore
- Behavioural Brain Research:" Brief, Daily Meditation Enhances Attention, Memory, Mood, and Emotional Regulation in Non-Experienced Meditators"
- The Journal of Positive Psychology:" The Relative Impact of 15-Minutes of Meditation Compared to a Day of Vacation in Daily Life: An Exploratory Analysis"
- The American Journal of Cardiology: "Meditation and Cardiovascular Health in the U.S."