Everyone from athletes, to celebrities, to entrepreneurs, every high-performing professional has a few things in common. One of the most common things they all do is practice meditation.
There are many reasons to meditate such as sharpening your mind, or calming down, but starting your day with a short meditation session can pay huge dividends for you.
Why You Should Meditate In the Morning
Science is beginning to prove what yogis, monks, and Kung Fu masters have known for centuries: that meditation can help to relieve stress and even serious medical conditions.
A 2014 review of 47 trials that observed more than 3,500 people concluded that meditation practices reduced subjects’ anxiety, depression, and pain. Another study that same year demonstrated benefits for patients with chronic insomnia.
Doing it in the morning will increase the likelihood that you do it at all. Get it out of the way early, and you won’t forget to meditate later, or blow it off.
When you meditate is up to you, but treating your meditation practice like a non-negotiable important appointment ensures you will get it done. Aim to meditate at the same time every day. If you think it will be easier to do it first thing upon waking up, before your day starts getting hectic and rushed, simply sit up in bed and do it right away.
Some meditation is much better than none at all, but if you can, aim for five sessions a week (varying lengths each session is OK). The more consistently you meditate, the more you’ll get accustomed to it, and the more you’ll want to keep doing it. Meditation will become something you desire to do, and not another task you feel obligated to complete.
How Long Do I Need to Meditate For?
Any amount of meditation is beneficial. If five minutes is all you can spare, that’s fine.
Of course, longer sessions will allow you to relax more and get into a deeper meditative state. If you’re rushed, set a timer for as long as you can spare, but, ideally, you’ll meditate until you feel your body and mind let go. Some go as long as 20-60 minutes.
If 20 minutes seems like a lot, and more time than you can spend “doing nothing,” take a moment to consider how much time you already spend scrolling through pictures on Instagram (of people you don’t even know…).
The Best Morning Meditation Routine for Clearing Your Head
When you’re ready to meditate, follow these steps.
1. Get quiet.
Get away from noise, distractions, and electronics. However, particular kinds of music can be helpful, such as binaural beats—music that directs one tone into one ear and a different tone into the other. The difference in the frequency of the two tones stimulates your brain and guides it to the state of mind the music is designed to lead you toward. There are binaural beat tracks for various different goals, such as better sleep or relaxation. Binaural beat music may seem strange, but it doesn’t sound that way. Tracks are usually packaged as nature sounds, such as falling rain, and are pleasant to listen to.
2. Get comfy.
Find a comfortable position to sit in. You could be in a chair, on your sofa, or on the floor. Try the half-lotus position—sitting on a pillow with legs crossed in front of you, one foot resting on the opposite thigh and the other foot tucked under (you’ve seen it in yoga class). Keep a long spine and rest your hands on your knees.
If you suffer from lower-back pain, an even more comfortable posture might be seiza, a Japanese style of sitting where you kneel on the floor and sit on your heels (again, place a pillow under your butt for greater comfort).
Close your eyes and try to relax. Take slow, deep breaths, and do your best to keep your mind on the rhythm of your breathing. Of course your thoughts will wander, but that the more you practice the easier it will become to keep your mind clear. When you catch yourself thinking, just acknowledge that the thought got your attention and it will go away.
Gently refocus on your breathing. Trying hard to think of something else or exploring that train of thought will only make it worse. Most importantly, don’t get frustrated and think you’re wasting your time. Keep breathing and trying to relax, and you’ll improve over time.
4. Let go.
You should breathe in meditation the way you do when you sleep—fluidly and softly. You need to relax every muscle, and this goes double if your main goal with meditation in the first place is to reduce stress and promote peace of mind.
As you relax some muscles, you’ll become aware that others are tight, so direct your attention to them and release them in sequence.
5. Ask questions.
When you feel your mind has quieted down and you’ve relaxed physically, you can start to use meditation for its greatest purpose—to become enlightened. Maybe not to the level of the Buddha, but at least about your own life and things you want to achieve.
For example, “What do I need to achieve today to fulfill my long-term goal? What are the next steps I need to take to sort out this situation? How do I need to realign my focus to better achieve my goals?"
Then wait and see what floats to the surface.
The breathing you’ve already done will help to clear away the normal chatter in your head, so it should be much easier, at this point, for you to think about what you want to work on objectively and with focus.
While questions are coming up, don’t try to actively answer them or problem-solve. The more you try to “grab” at thoughts and hold them down, the harder it will be to let your subconscious thoughts come out. It may sound a little esoteric, but think of your mind as a mirror (ever notice that thinking is called “reflection?”)
When it’s racing and unfocused, the mirror is shattered, and you’re scrambling to pick up fragments of thought that you can never piece together into a whole. You can’t reform the mirror to get a clear image of who you are and what’s in front of you.
Let me know how meditation works for you.