For the last few weeks, I’ve been getting tension headaches. Typically, they arise from a combination of physical and psychological stress. One of the ways I tackle the build up of stress is with meditation. No chanting or mantras. I just count my breath and practice being aware of the thoughts and feelings that arise within my mind. When I don’t meditate, I am more stressed. I can tell because I get tension headaches.
Last week, I didn’t meditate. At all. So I thought I could compensate by doing one marathon meditation session. It kind of worked.
But doing so made me realise that there’s two approaches to maintaining and reinforcing good behaviours. Think of them as chains and blocks. I’ll give you some examples.
- Writing for thirty minutes every day versus once a week for four hours.
- Meditating for ten minutes in the morning and evening versus once a week for two hours.
- Eating a healthy breakfast every morning versus having one day of perfect, clean nutrition.
- Exercising for forty minutes a day versus three times a week for two hours.
- Reading for one hour a day versus a single day devoted just to study.
In all of the examples, the former are chains, the latter are blocks. I’ve come to believe that, in the majority of cases, chains are more significant than blocks. Doing something every day creates more change.
I don’t know why that is. My suspicion is that daily performance etches something more deeply into your character than more infrequent performance. Even if the total time is the same.
To put it to the test, here’s an experiment. I’ll use meditation as an example.
Meditate every day, at the same time, for a total of ten minutes. At the end of each day, complete a questionnaire which assesses your levels of perceived stress and energy. Do this for four weeks, for a total of 4 hours and 40 minutes of meditation time.
Meditate twice a week, on the same day, at the same time, for a total of one hour and ten minutes. At the end of each day complete the same questionnaire. Do this for four weeks, for a total of 4 hours and 40 minutes of meditation time.
Which do you think will have more impact? The daily, shorter behaviour? Or the more infrequent, but longer behaviour? The chain or the block approach?