Book Review: 10% Happier by Dan Harris
This week, we have the privilege of a guest post from author, writer, editor, blogger Jeri Walker-Bickett, whom I met via the Bloggers Helping Bloggers group on LinkedIn. Jeri Walker-Bickett (@JeriWB) writes short stories, creative nonfiction, and psychological suspense. The rough Idaho mining town she grew up in populates her literary landscape. She also works as a freelance editor. You can also connect with Jeri on Amazon Author Central.
Here is Jeri’s review of 10% Happier by Dan Harris
Many of us (especially writers) spend way too much thinking and worrying about everything—especially what will make us happy. I recently listened to the audiobook version of 10% Happier by NBC news anchor Dan Harris. Immediately after finishing it, I listened to the audiobook again. The subtitle says it all: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story. It’s not a step-by-step self-help book. Rather, the author uses his personal story to show the positive steps toward mindfulness.
The issues that led to Dan Harris taking up mediation are far from uncommon. He points out how his life was centered on “advancement and adventure.” With Peter Jennings as his “mentor and tormentor,” Harris became a war correspondent and eventually covered the religious beat for NBC. Though not particularly religious, both maintain an insatiable curiosity for the inner-workings that make humankind tick. Harris maintains his agnosticism, but expresses admiration upon realizing religious people actively make time to contemplate their place in the world once a week.
The author’s hyper-focus on his career led to working all the time. He suffered from depression which manifested as flu-like symptoms, and he also turned to self-medicating though cocaine use. Two on-air anxiety attacks became his wake-up call. He realized something had to give. He started by seeing a psychiatrist, and then set out to find ways to better control his ego and the voice in his head which he likens to being a jerk. Just think about how often you’re hard on yourself because of doubts related to your writing or blogging efforts when that energy could be invested in better pursuits.
Along the way, Dan Harris meets a variety of spiritual leaders from Ted Haggart, Eckart Toli, Depak Chopra, Sharon Salzburg, Mark Epstein, and Joseph Goldstein. Throughout he was working on a series of Happiness, Inc. television segments. Each encounter shows how he moves toward not denying himself a spiritual existence while learning how to quiet the anxiety of his monkey-mind. At first, he thinks acquiring a calmer presence will make him lose his edge. In truth, multi-tasking takes away from the present situation.
Meditation tends to get a bad rap as something done by hippies and cult members. Harris points out how our pursuit of happiness often becomes the source of our unhappiness. He likens meditation to exercise for the mind and something one can get better at with continued practice. It brings a person greater focus and helps them live in the moment rather than dwelling in the past and present. The shift from aversion to compassion will also take place. Worrying is legit if it serves a purpose, but incessant worry does not serve a purpose.
Without a doubt, this book spoke to me on many levels. It’s rare that a book truly makes me want to take action, but 10% Happier accomplished just that. I’m ready to make a more conscious effort at living and writing in the present.
What steps have you taken to be happier and more productive?
Thanks to Jeri for this insightful post. Let’s talk about the pursuit of happiness and productivity.