Author: Dan Harris
APA Citation: Harris, D. (2014) 10% Happier: How I tamed the voices in my head, reduced stress, without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works. Harper Collins, New York, N.Y.
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Dan Harris is perhaps best known from his time as an anchor and correspondent for World News Tonight and Nightline. Dan found himself in an incredibly competitive industry where everyone was vying to get more air time and to have their stories picked up and covered. As a young correspondent Harris learned many beneficial and some difficult lessons from more senior news correspondents like Peter Jennings and Diane Sawyer. He became a better anchor correspondent as a result and found himself moving up to bigger and more public jobs. Despite the outward appearance of thriving in his professional career, Harris was besieged by feelings that he did not belong, he experienced nearly constant stress and anxiety as a result of his high pressure career coupled with memories of the traumas he had witnessed as a war correspondent. Harris starting using drugs was finding ways in which to temporarily alleviate his stress and anxiety while becoming increasingly more dependent on illegal substances. Eventually, this caught up to Harris and he experienced a panic attack on air. While the network was supportive, Harris knew he needed to make a change and went to see a therapist who made the connection between the drug use and the on-air panic attack.
Fear for losing his career that he had fought so hard for made Harris explore alternatives to slowing the constant chatter in his brain. Harris began reading much about mindfulness and meditation but when he initially tried to clear his mind and live in the present moment he could not focus even for a few minutes. Instead, he found himself thinking of the next project or the next newscast. Consistent with his journalistic nature, Harris sought out experts in the field, some of whom were selling their followers of false hope and other like the Dali Lama and Dr. Park Epstein that Harris found more authentic and honest about the challenges of meditation. Harris tried to make time each day for meditation and eventually found that his practice was slowly improving. In order to make a more significant difference, Harris attended a 10 day silent retreat to focus his energies on improving his practice further and perhaps experience a breakthrough. While the first few days were excruciating, on day 4, Harris did have his breakthrough becoming completely lost in the practice and more finely attuned to the happenings in his environment. Harris felt great happiness in the moment much like what he had been reading about for years.
This breakthrough was enough for Harris to continue his practice with a new renewed vigor. He even convinced the network to do series of stories in mindfulness and meditation. Many co-workers and his family reported that he was easier to get along with and more patient since he began regularly practicing meditation. Some people gave Harris grief for his newfound passion and he often felt embarrassed when defending his practice. He found that he was better able to manage the stress in his job and was able to enjoy the moment without chasing the next job opportunity. He eventually began telling other who asked that meditation was not a cure all, but on the whole he would describe himself as about 10% Happier. He found that this piqued the interest of his colleagues and friend many of whom began the practice for themselves.
More recently Harris has resigned from ABC new to work on his 10% happier podcast and app in an effort to help as many people as possible find a more peaceful and Happier existence. He encourages those new to the discipline to give themselves credit for clearing their mind even for a few moments and to keep practicing even if it sometimes feels like they are not making any progress as with time they will improve.
Psychological Figures and Concepts
Other Related Resources:
10% Happier App
10% Happier podcast
10% Happier Instagram
Dan Harris talk at Google
Everyday Mindfulness with Jon Kabat Zinn
The Guardian: The Master of Mindfulness
TED talk Jon Kabat Zinn