Reap the benefits of centering yourself at sunrise
For a practice that is all about finding balance, the statistics on meditation are lacking a middle ground. Around 40 percent of Americans meditate weekly, while 45 percent do so rarely, if ever. You’re missing out if you haven’t added mindfulness to your life. Mindfulness is a calm and centered awareness of your environment, your mind, and your body. It encourages nonjudgmental acceptance and focuses on the present moment.
Americans may only have met mindfulness in 1979, but the concept has been with us for over two thousand years, and the benefits can be felt in mere minutes. Is there a best time to meditate? It all depends on your goals, but if your aim is to set the tone for the day, make the morning your time to practice.
Meditate in the morning
Health experts will tell you not eating before work is a recipe for burnout, but it can also be advantageous to meditate before you eat.
The yogic practice believes in rising early or meditating four hours after a meal. The reasoning here is that meditation is all about awareness and a clearly focused mind. Digestion draws blood to the stomach and can make us drowsy, so an empty stomach is a clarity bonus.
Meditation has been described in some circles as conscious sleep. The morning is a good time to center yourself because even five minutes of deep breathing can profoundly relax and reenergize you, particularly if you didn’t sleep well. The morning is also a relatively quieter time of day, and lower noise levels are meditation’s best friend.
Research has some favorable data that the early hours are the best time to form new habits. Higher levels of cortisol are present in our bodies when we wake, meaning that morning mindfulness can become your new routine fifty days faster than if you meditate later.
The benefits of morning mindfulness
Think of meditation as a multi-vitamin for the mind and spirit. Five to ten minutes a day could see you start the morning with:
- Improved heart rate and blood pressure. Deep breathing through meditation relaxes our muscles and decreases tension. Less tension regulates our heart rate and opens our blood vessels, lessening the constriction that is a contributor to high blood pressure.
- Increased emotional stability. Negative emotions, like fear and sadness, depend a great deal on our heart rate as much as our thought patterns. Suffer from anxiety or panic attacks? Meditation can help there, too. Meditation has also been hailed as one of the most potent natural ways to relieve depression.
- Boosted immunity. The body follows the mind and when we feel good, our immunity benefits. A positive attitude goes a long way with human health and the endorphins secreted during meditation help relieve stress, dull pain and flood our systems with a pleasant buzz.
- Higher productivity. When CEOs and entrepreneurs make meditation part of their day, it pays to take notice. Mindfulness empowers you to be in the moment and not be drawn into thoughts about the past or the future. Being stable, calm, and focused on the present is the key to optimizing your productivity and creativity.
- A new brain? Mindfulness can make you a happier, smarter, and more humane person.
One study demonstrated how meditation can alter the structure of your brain over time. Regular meditation can strengthen our ability to empathize and feel compassion, as well as remember, understand, and learn.
How to meditate
Find a quiet spot and sit in a comfortable position. Your posture should be upright, and your eyes closed. Then you can begin. Set a gentle alarm sound to let you know when the time is up.
Draw deep, slow breaths and focus on the sensation of inhaling and exhaling. If thoughts occur about the past or future, let them arise and pass without clinging to them, like watching people pass by your window then disappear.
You may find you’re drawn to certain thoughts and if so, acknowledge this and gently guide yourself back to focus on your breath. Don’t be discouraged by a busy mind. Developing mindfulness is a process of being aware of everything but selectively approving which stimuli you dwell on. Give it a try! Five, ten, or fifteen minutes each morning can set the course for your whole day.
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