AKOSMED Book Review Series Presents: 10% Happier — How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works, by Dan Harris (2014)
I initially wanted to call this book The Voice in My Head is an Asshole. However, that title was deemed inappropriate for a man whose day job requires him to abide by FCC decency standards.
I call this a gateway book. It’s like the marijuana of mindfulness and meditation books — although not everyone will eventually get into the hardcore stuff, most will find this particular book enjoyable for many years. I don’t actually recall anymore why I picked this book off of Amazon in the first place. I was probably looking for something else and accidentally blundered into it. But regardless, 10% Happier launched a revolution in my own brain and acted like jet fuel to my interest in wellness.
I like to flatter myself and say that Dan Harris and I were cut from the same cloth (setting aside the fact that he is a world-famous television personality and I … am not). In the beginning, neither of us knew much about mindfulness and perhaps had some rather stiff ideas about meditation. Perhaps this is why the book appealed to me so much. It’s written for skeptical people who aren’t sure if they want to buy into this whole wellness thing in the first place.
In fact, the premise of the book speaks to this. Several months into his experimentation with meditation and following a ten-day retreat, Harris found himself frequently trying to both explain away and defend his new mindset.
At first, these conversations didn’t go well … Whenever I was asked about meditation, I would either clam up and get a sheepish look on my face, the way dogs in Manhattan do when they’re going to the bathroom on the street, or I would launch into an off-putting, overly emphatic lecture about the benefits of mindfulness, how it was actually a superpower, how it really wasn’t as weird as everyone thought, and didn’t involve “clearing the mind” and so on. I could see the tinge of mild terror in my listeners eyes — the cornered interlocutor politely but frantically looking for any means of egress …
After several weeks of this, I had a fateful conversation with my friend Kris, a senior producer at GMA … She shot me funny look and said,”What’s with you and the whole meditation thing?” Trying to avoid another long, unsuccessful answer I blurted out, “I do it because it makes me 10% happier.” The look on her face instantly changed. What had been a tiny glimmer of scorn was suddenly transformed into an expression of genuine interest. “Really?” she said. “That sounds pretty good, actually.”
Boom: I’d found my schtick. 10% happier: it had the dual benefit of being catchy and true.
Meditation probably won’t completely change your life or bring you into a perpetual state of Zen-like calm. But it might just make you about 10% happier on a day to day basis. And if you think about it, 10% is a pretty good return on any type of investment. This book documents the journey of one ambitious, overworked, amphetamine-seeking television journalist who broke down ones day and had a full-blown panic attack on air. Initially skeptical of anything that could help his situation without losing his competitive edge, he found that meditation not only shut the trap of the asshole in his head, but surprisingly helped to up his game in the long run as well.
This book blew my mind and opened the floodgates. It gets 5 stars.
AKOSMED Rating 5/5 Stars
10% Happier — How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works is available in hardcover, paperback, and audio versions from the online sellers Amazon and Audible.
Table of Contents
- Air Hunger
- Genius or Lunatic?
- Happiness, Inc.
- The Jew-Bu
- The Power of Negative Thinking
- 10% Happier
- “The New Caffeine”
- The Self-Interested Case of Not Being a Dick
- Hide the Zen
About the Author
Dan Harris is a co-anchor of Nightline and the weekend edition of Good Morning America on ABC News. He has reported from all over the planet — covering the wars in Afghanistan, Israel, and Iraq and producing investigative reports in Haiti, Cambodia, and the Congo. In 2009 he won an Emmy Award for his Nightline report, “How to Buy a Child in Ten Hours.” Not surprisingly, in recent months, he has also been seen in the company of meditation and mindfulness personalities such as Sharon Salzberg.