What I Plan on Doing
Meditate every hour with increasing durations for two weeks.
During my last self-study on blocking the internet at home, one thing I was hoping to do during my supposedly newly freed up time was to meditate. It's been a struggle for me to do this consistently. A couple months ago, I was at a breathwork session meetup and the person running it cited a study where the participants meditated for 12 minutes in the morning and again in the evening for 8 weeks. I can't find the study and don't remember the specific positive benefits, but it seemed like a reasonable, if arbitrary, goal to shoot for, similar to 10k steps.
However, I had trouble implementing it. I could be consistent for a few days in the morning, but could never meditate at night. Then, increasingly, the 12 minutes seemed to be too much and I dropped it. Something that I noticed with the banning-the-internet-at-home self-study is that if I implement something extreme, like not consuming any digital media, I'll see benefits quickly, but after a few days, some part of my brain will rebel and I'll regress hard.
Adopting a new habit gradually is considered to be best practice, but my impatience often gets the best of me. However, I was doing well with one behavior. With the goal of getting outside as early as possible, I started doing morning walks. I had been doing 30 minute walks, but again, at it stopped after I went on a trip (How many gravestones in the habit graveyard are inscribed with "died on holiday"?), and felt too daunting to start up again. So, I did the gradual method: one minute the first day, two minutes the day after. I'm up to 15 minutes and it hasn't been difficult to do.
I wanted to apply the same principle to meditation. I wondered (this could be my impatience again), instead of acclimating myself to a behavior over the course of weeks, could I do it over the course of a day? I tried out this "step" method (outlined below) where I started off with short meditations that increasingly got longer throughout the day. By that night, I had meditated for over 1 hour and 45 minutes. THAT WAS CRAZY! It seemed remarkable considering that I couldn't get myself to do a 12 minute meditation in the morning. Hearing about people who meditate an hour a day seemed extreme, but somehow I was able to do it fairly easily using this method. And it wasn't just the duration that seemed significant. I felt much, much, much better. As I update this log, I'll get into specifically what aspects of my mental function seemed to be improved.
I tried this method for the rest of the week, but couldn't keep it up because of an increasing sleep debt from a disastrous backyard camping experiment.
The plan is to meditate every hour from 7 am until 9 pm in increasing duration. So, 1 minute at 7 am, 2 minutes at 8 am and so on until 15 minutes at 9 pm. Invariably, I'm going to miss hours. In those cases, I just do whatever the next step up is. If I meditate for 1 minute at 7 am and miss 8 am, then I'll do 2 minutes at 9 am. I don't make up for lost hours. Also, it doesn't need to be on the hour, just anytime during that hour block.
Monday, July 22nd through Sunday, August 4th. So, I'm three days into this. On the end date, I will gather some data and reflect on the project. Do I want to continue it? Should I adjust the method? Make it less extreme? Maybe a meditation every two hours? Or do I consider this to be a good way to acclimate me to regular meditation, so that I can adopt a more regular model of 12 minutes in the morning and night.
Ideas I am testing
Is this a dumb thing to do? I'm drawn to projects that are a little bit extreme and ridiculous. I generally expect them to crash and burn, but want to know where it breaks down. Even after "failed" projects, I tend to approach and think about things differently because of what I learned.
Can the tiny habits method be accelerated by doing it multiple times per day? Starting the day with a quick and easy meditation seems to work really well.
I'm curious to see if this "step" method could be used for other behaviors I would want to adopt. Could it make me finally clean my garage? Or does meditation work especially well because it counterbalances the wear the brain endures during the day. In other words, as the day goes on and those mental resources I need to stay on task and be intentional are depleted, does the increased meditation duration help create a buffer?
What I'll Measure
I will use the Muse (courtesy of Ernesto Ramirez) to look at the quality of the meditations. However, because I have to spend a minute or so to calibrate, I will only use the headband for sessions that are 5 minutes or greater. This will make the first sessions of the day as frictionless as possble. After a session, the Muse app displays the percentage of time that I spent in the "calm" state. But before I look at that number, I'm going to make a prediction based on my subjective experience, and see how well it lines up.
I will also take advantage of the fact that the Muse can also track non-headband sessions. This well help to keep all of that data in one place. I will look at total minutes per day and the hours of the day that I'm most likely to fail to meditate.
I'll see how this affects certain metrics that I track
every day most days when I can such as mood, sustained attention, fasting blood glucose, blood pressure, weight.
I may look at other resources to see if anything jumps out at me such as RescueTime data, podcast listening duration, Foci data, etc.
Anything else I should pay attention to? Feel free to ask questions in the thread about this self-study.