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5 Ways the Book '10% Happier' Changed My Life for the Better

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If you watch ABC News you know Dan Harris. He can be found anchoring World News, ABC New tonight and Nightline. You may also know him as the anchor who in 2014, ”had a panic attack live on Good Morning America in front of an audience of 5.019 million people.”

After this incident, Harris explored the world of meditation to figure out a way to tame the negative voice in his head. This “fidgety skeptic” has taken the practice of meditation to heart and found that it has changed his life and made him, as his book describes, at least 10 percent happier. A friend passed this on to me and (after I skeptically commented, “What, don’t you think I’m happy enough?”) I went on to read the book.

Reading it is changing my life. Here’s how:

1. I feel understood.

I don’t do yoga, though I have tried it. I eat meat. I’m Italian and I cannot be calm. Basically what I’m trying to say is, I’m not your stereotypical meditation/yoga/mindfulness obsessed person. However, this book made me seriously think about the way I react to and perceive events in my life. Dan Harris is no doubt a hardworking person, but he doesn’t spend every minute working or thinking about his career. He has found some balance and though he has not achieved perfection or “enlightenment,” he is able to enjoy his family, friends and continue be successful in a very high profile field. Working all the time is not a badge of honor. Reading this book made me feel like I was listening to a friend explain a change in his life he didn’t quite understand himself. I trust him. And the way he explains how his mind works against him is frighteningly familiar. Yea. I need to shut that thinking down. Yesterday.

2. I am benefitting from daily meditation.

Harris has created an app for those of us who are new to meditation. You can choose the amount of time you want to spend on this, what you want to focus on and he has leaders in the field handling the heavy lifting, so to speak. When I feel my mind spinning, when my daughter has a bad day, when I need to calm down, I spend 10 minutes listening to the app. Just in case you were wondering, it’s OK, expected and normal to not be able to quiet your mind. Being aware of what you are thinking about and pulling your mind back to the meditation is the practice. It’s interesting to realize what pops into my head while I’m trying to calm my mind (Do we have cookies? I really need to finish weeding the yard. How are we going to afford college? And on and on and on…). Meditation helps me focus, kind of like a daily to do list. If I can’t make my mind stop thinking about it, it’s time to do something about it. And if I can’t do something about it, this practice is helping me learn to let it go.

3. I can help the children in my life.

After reading Harris’ book, I went straight to his podcast and became a subscriber. This led me to some amazing one hour interviews with the Dalai Llama, Arianna Huffington and my personal favorite, Ali Smith. Smith is a certified yoga instructor and executive director of the Holistic Life Foundation, and he teaches meditation to children.

This fall, I will be practicing meditation with a group of elementary students. Our children need this practice to help them deal with their daily stressors, too. This will be a tool they can use in the future to help them continue on the path to success and stay healthy in the process. Some students inhabit “worlds of chaos,” to quote Smith. We need to address how to help children handle the chaos.

4. My friends are benefiting.

I’m sure you can relate to this. You find a great new restaurant, a great deal at your local store, watch an amazing Netflix movie and you can’t stop talking about it. I have passed this book on to many people, and I talk about the podcast and app daily. No one has it all together. We are all struggling with something, and stress is on everyone’s mind. The message I’m getting back from others is the same. The way Harris delivers this information is great for the person coming from a somewhat skeptical point of view, but who is open to doing something to change their live in a positive way.

5. This could be the solution I’ve been looking for.

When I think about the events of the last few months, years, even decade, it can truly be scary, disheartening and worrisome. Maybe if we all had a way to calm our minds, we could handle this one life we are given in a more thoughtful, kind and positive way. We are all facing struggles. Meditation might be a way to help us all relax and learn to be empathetic toward each other.  At the very least, maybe we can be 10 percent happier.

Originally published: August 5, 2016
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