Ultimate Guide to Morning Meditation Sessions
On the surface, meditation looks easy. You’re just sitting down and closing your eyes. But if you’ve ever practiced it yourself, you know it’s more complicated than that. Although the instructions or many types of meditation are simple, mind training takes time. Still, learning to meditate is worth it.
Meditation originated as a spiritual practice, but recent research has shown there are plenty of physical and emotional benefits. In this guide, we’re discussing how meditation can improve your life and how you can use the practice to transform your mornings.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice that can help you gain perspective and feel better. While meditation can take several forms, most practices involve focusing your attention on something specific. Perhaps most popular, mindfulness meditation asks you to keep bringing your focus back to your breath. Every time a thought comes up, the goal is to accept it and let it slide by, controlling your attention.
At first, you might follow a thought for several minutes before remembering to focus on your breath. Over time, returning to breath becomes easier. Meditation isn’t the practice of being thoughtless. It’s the practice of directing your focus. If you end a session realizing you were in your head the entire time, it doesn’t mean you failed at the practice—it means you’re building the skill.
Meditation can look different to everyone, whether you’re sitting or lying down, or you practice for one minute or one hour.
Benefits of Meditation
Science is showing what meditators have always suspected. The benefits of morning meditation range from physical effects to mental well-being. Evidence also suggests that it can boost your ability to concentrate and improve productivity.
Research on meditation is still relatively new, so some benefits are better proven than others. Since there are many kinds of meditation, it’s possible that some versions may produce results that others don’t. The most highly studied type is mindfulness meditation.
Today, there’s enough evidence that doctors and mental health professionals recommend it as an effective mental health tool—a safe and simple way to reduce stress. Here are some benefits you might notice when you practice meditation.
Reduce Morning Anxiety
One benefit of starting the day with meditation is that it may help alleviate any morning stress or anxiety you wake up with. Cortisol levels, a stress hormone, are typically highest early in the morning. On top of this, you may have added anxiety from rushing around, trying to get to work on time.
Mindfulness meditation can help by interrupting your stress and bringing you physical and mental calm. Several studies have found that mindfulness meditation lowers cortisol levels. A 2019 study of nearly 1,500 volunteers concluded that meditation can reduce anxiety symptoms and the risk of it becoming a clinical disorder.
Interestingly, researchers say that the benefits may not be directly from the meditation session. Instead, they theorize that meditation helps you develop skills that change how you handle life events and situations.
Consistently practicing in the morning may help you regulate your emotions throughout the day.
Do you tend to wake up stressed? You’re not alone. Read about how to deal with morning anxiety.
Improve Your Morning Mood
Instead of starting the day frantically, meditation can help set a calm tone. Seeing the day’s to-do list can be daunting, but after taking a moment to breathe, you can approach it with a cool confidence.
In one study, volunteers learned a mantra-based meditation in four one-hour meetings. They were then asked to practice it for 15-20 minutes, twice daily. Researchers found that even brief training can improve a negative mood.
But what about if you’re just starting to meditate, will you see same-day benefits? A 2013 study investigated the benefits of just one session. They found that mindfulness meditation—and even "fake" meditation—calmed negative emotions and increased mindfulness scores.
If you wake up in a bad mood, doing a short meditation might make you feel better.
Enhance Your Focus Throughout the Day
Meditation is the practice of controlling your focus, so it makes sense that the new skill would help you in your daily life, too. And that’s what science is showing.
One study showed that, compared to people who didn't practice, meditators had better stability in their ventral posteromedial cortex—an area of the brain linked to spontaneous thoughts. While both groups had some activity in the area, the changes could mean that meditators can better control their thoughts so they don't "snowball."
For example, let’s say you’re working and a thought creeps in about what to eat for dinner. You start thinking about your options, which leads you to think about your next grocery shopping trip. And that reminds you that you also need to get your car fixed, which may cost a lot, so now you’re worried about your financial situation too. Instead, an experienced meditator may simply acknowledge the thought, make a mental note to decide on dinner later, and get back to work.
Because meditation helps you build better focus, it might also increase your productivity. When you can easily shift away from distracting thoughts, it’s easier to keep on track. You get more done in less time and with less effort. If you think you already have a good handle on interruptions, consider that people who work on computers are distracted every 40 seconds on average.
In one study, over 400 workers across four companies were taught mindfulness techniques and asked to meditate for at least 10 minutes a day. The employees had significant increases in personal performance, with the biggest improvements being productivity and team cooperation.
Meditation also increases gray matter in areas of the brain associated with learning, memory, self-discipline and perspective. Increasing these skills can not only improve your ability to stay productive but can also help you become a more critical thinker.
Learn about the morning routines of successful people.
Types of Meditation
Meditation typically involves trying to quiet the mind by focusing on something specific. Different forms of the practice vary based on what that point of focus is. Although there are many types of meditation, here are a few to try:
- Mindfulness. While sitting or lying, continuously bring your attention back to the sounds and sensations of your breath. Other variations have you focus on different breathing techniques or the "body scan" practice, which guides you to notice and loosen any physical tension.
- Mantra. Instead of using your breath as an anchor for your attention, you can use your voice. The most popular example is slowly repeating “om,” but you can choose any word that resonates with you (try “love” or “peace”). You can also say or chant prayers or sacred words to make it a spiritual practice.
- Moving. For those who have trouble sitting still, try a moving meditation while you walk. When your thoughts drift, you bring yourself back into the moment by focusing on the sensations of your feet as they hit the ground.
- Visualization. Quiet your thoughts with a “mental movie.” For example, imagine you’re on a serene beach, listening to the sounds and feeling the sensations.
- Guided. Perfect for beginners, guided meditations walk you through the practice. Even for regular meditators, guided morning meditations can help you overcome stress and set your focus for the day.
How to Meditate in the Mornings
Before jumping into a meditation, consider these tips to make the most out of your session:
- Start small. Sitting still can be hard, but even a short session can have benefits. Start with 3-5 minutes and work your way up. If you’re not being guided, simply set a timer.
- Try audio guided meditations. When there’s a voice reminding you to rein in your thoughts, it’s easier to focus on your breath.
- Fit into your morning routine. You don’t need to meditate every day to get benefits. However, regular practice will layer on the results. To help make time for it, add it to your morning routine. By meditating every day before eating breakfast, for example, you’ll develop the habit easier.
- Meditate for stress. You can also choose to meditate specifically when you’re stressed or overwhelmed. This is a good option if you want to experience the benefits of meditation but don’t want to commit to a daily practice. Try not to stress about missing a session because it defeats the purpose of the practice. Remember—practice over perfection.
- Non-judgment. If there’s one rule when learning meditation, it’s not to beat yourself up. There will be times when you get lost in your head or “waste” a session with snowballing thoughts. Have self-compassion, and try not to judge yourself. It’s a learning process.
A Quick Morning Meditation
Try this quick morning meditation you can do in 5 minutes:
- Set a 5-minute timer.
- Sit or lay in a comfortable position. Get into proper posture, with your hands by your sides.
- Close your eyes or soften them to a gentle gaze.
- Bring your attention to your breath and the sensations of your body. Feel your chest rising and falling and the air pushing out your mouth or nose.
- When your mind wanders, congratulate yourself on realizing it’s wandering.
- Bring your attention back to your breath and the sensations it creates.
- Imagine each thought drifting by but never stopping to stay. Keep bringing your attention back for every thought. It can be difficult to maintain at first, but it will get easier with time.
- When you’re done, slowly open your eyes or lift your gaze and gently return back to your morning.
Meditating in the Morning vs. Other Times of Day
Meditation is a tool available to you at any time of the day. Some people swear by morning meditations as a way to create calm and stability before the rush of the day. Squeezing in some “me-time” before everyone else needs your attention is a healthy act of self-care.
Others use brief and frequent meditation sessions throughout the day to reduce stress and improve focus. Taking a few minutes away from work to site and quiet your thoughts can be a beneficial ongoing practice.
The one exception for when to meditate maybe before bed. Since meditation is the practice of being more mindful and aware, meditating before bed may have the opposite effect. Before bed, you want to encourage relaxation and sleepiness. You want to train your brain to use mindfulness as an awareness tool, not a sedative.
Whether you meditate in the morning to prepare you for the day or after work to help wash away the day’s stress, meditation is a lifelong skill you’ll have access to any time.
Mornings are for me-time. Read our top tips for morning self-care.
Make Your Mornings Mindful
Research has shown that mindfulness—the ability to be in the present moment—has a variety of physical and mental benefits. Incorporating this practice into your morning is a good way to start calm, making it more likely you’ll take it with you throughout your day. Mindfulness can look as simple as slowing down to enjoy a sip of coffee or the taste of your breakfast.
Sometimes, it also helps to add more concrete mindfulness practices into your routine. One option is meditation. Closing your eyes and focusing on your breath for just a few minutes is a good way to shake off stress before it even starts. For the first while, meditation can seem tedious, and you may feel like you’re doing it wrong. But as long as you’re trying, you’re succeeding at meditating.
Although you don’t need to practice every day, having a morning meditation routine you go to as needed can help make your days more mindful.