This past week, I finished up reading 10% Happier by Dan Harris. As I’ve previously mentioned, I am in the works of planning my 2015 Adventure to Bliss. One of my wishes is to explore what happiness means to different people and why. My list of books to read is now at 26 for the new year – and I’m certain it will grow. Although, I’ll be honest, I’m not sure when I last read (for pleasure) that much… maybe high school? Ah, well, I’m incredibly excited to start this Adventure to Bliss and even more excited to share further details with all of you in the coming weeks.
Today, I bring you book number one on happiness – 10% Happier by Dan Harris. I wasn’t going to read this. In fact, I cut it out of my list… and then I somehow stumbled back to it while reading reviews and recommendations and decided it was fate.
The cover truly intrigued me. 10% Happier? That’s it? That’s all you’re going to get me? Why would I read that! On the other hand, “How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge and found self-help that actually works…” got me to smile. I’m always looking for a way to shut up the little Ashlee in my head running around in circles telling me that I’m not good enough or not trying hard enough or to do this or that.
Ultimately, I opened it up… and quite quickly came to it’s conclusion.
Who is Dan Harris?
If you don’t know, Dan Harris is the anchor of Nightline and the coanchor of weekend editions of GMA (Good Morning America). 10% Happier was Dan’s first book, published in 2014.
10% Happier – The Story
Dan Harris had a panic attack on national television. Funny thing though, no one really realized – but him. Of course, he knew he had to do something about it. He experimented with drugs, shared his story with scientists and talked to (what seemed like) every self-help guru out there to try to shush up that voice in his head… or simply control it. He finally happened upon meditation.
I laughed. When I realized this book was centered around Dan Harris’s new found skill of meditation, I literally “LOL’d.” I can’t meditate, I thought. I can hardly sit still long enough to let a song play all the way through, let alone sit in the quiet and not do anything but breathe for 10 minutes or more a day.
Turns out, I can sit still for that long. I’m even training my brain to just breathe for those ten minutes a day. But I’m only on my third day of meditation – who knows if I’ll be able to stick with it.
There’s a lot more to this book than Meditation, Harris is witty, intelligent and the best of all, he seems real in it. He’s got a story to tell – a story that can resonate with almost all of us. I believe that many of us feel that we have this person inside of us either knocking us down every time we try to do something, or just reminding us of how much we have left to do. He again brought the importance of a mindful life into my eyes.
10% Happier had a ton of really good quotes, here are some of my favorites 🙂
“Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment. And imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one. That is continuous stress.”
This is me, 100%. I’m constantly thinking about what I need to do next. Or where I’m going.
“What mindfulness does is create some space in your head so you can, as the Buddhists say, “respond” rather than simply “react.” In the Buddhist view, you can’t control what comes up in your head; it all arises out of a mysterious void. We spend a lot of time judging ourselves harshly for feelings that we had no role in summoning. The only thing you can control is how you handle it.”
Yes! Check out my piece on being a response-able people. I am (you are) in control of my own (your own) reactions to all of life’s little ups and downs.
“The Buddha captured it well when he said that anger, which can be so seductive at first, has “a honeyed tip” but a “poisoned root.”
Do you ever get angry? And initially it might feel good, but shortly after that it feels awful and you’re exhausted? Well, that’s what Dan (or really, Buddha) is saying here. Love it.
“Everything in the world is ultimately unsatisfying and unreliable because it won’t last.”
This is pretty much the icing on the cake for me. Initially it really frustrated me – “so what, I can never be happy then?! Well, that’s stupid…” But after some reflection, the point of this quote is to remind us that life is short – and the stuff and things that fill it really doesn’t matter. It’s the moments of now that are all we have – and we must be mindful enough to cherish each and every one of them!
So, what did I do upon completion of this book?! Why meditate, of course! I thought, hey why not! And so like I said, here I am on day three of meditation.
Meditation is good for you because…
- Lessens worry, stress and anxiety
- Improves immune system and ability to fight off diseases
- Reduces blood pressure
- Improves sleep
- Helps to develop mindfulness
- Increases memory retention
- Increases ability to focus
- Lengthens lifespan
- Lessens heart problems
How you can get started…
At the end of 10% Happier, Dan has an appendix to explain instructions to multiple variations of meditation and instructions on how to! As I’m only on day three of this adventure, I’m only going to share an abbreviated version of his tips for mindfulness meditation.
- Unlike I originally thought, you don’t have to contort yourself into a cross-legged position, simply sit with good posture, either on a chair, a pillow or the floor. I like to sit with my back against the wall to keep my posture up.
- Set a timer for five minutes to start – if you’re feeling ambitious go for 10 minutes.
- Feel your breath. Whether through your belly, chest or nose – feel your breath coming in and leaving your body.
- If you have a thought, acknowledge it (i.e. respond) but don’t react to it (or try not to). If you have an itch on your head, try to acknowledge the thought but don’t react by scratching. It’s most likely that the itch will subside.
- The entire purpose of meditation is to begin again and again. Per Dan, “I cannot stress strongly enough that forgiving yourself and starting over is the whole game. As my friend and meditation teacher Sharon Salzburg has written, “Beginning again and again is the actual practice, not a problem to overcome so that one day we can come to the ‘real’ meditation.””
Overall, if you’re looking for a quick read on the perks of meditation – or just a story about what one person did to stop the voice in his head, be sure to check out 10% Happier by Dan Harris. I look forward to exploring the world of meditation more in the coming new year! 🙂