10% Happier by Dan Harris
A book so good, I read it twice (years apart, but still). On my second read, I read the revised edition, which includes new material.
Prior to reading 10% Happier, I had known of Dan Harris from his work as an ABC news correspondent. But I really learned more about him when I found out that he had a panic attack on live tv during Good Morning America. If you can handle watching it, it’s still up on YouTube (with my apologies for the appearance by Dr. Oz).
There’s something voyeuristic in the second-hand embarrassment, I’m sure, but I also just really felt for the guy. As someone who has had anxiety as long as I can remember—even before I knew what to call it—his experience was a nightmare come to life, in my eyes.
10% Happier tells Harris’ story of an up-and-coming journalist climbing the ladder all the way to ABC News. It’s his stint as a depressed workaholic and an embedded war correspondent that really set him on a psychological spiral. Those experiences in the field left him with PTSD and unresolved trauma that he sought relief from in the form of drugs (cocaine and ecstasy, mostly). It all came to a head that fateful morning of his panic attack, when he had the realization that he needed to make a change.
Harris’ story is especially fascinating to me because he’s a self-described rational, pragmatic person who doesn’t believe in woo. Meditation, to people who don’t practice it, probably falls into the woo category. Harris met the idea with a healthy amount of skepticism until he started practicing meditation regularly and discovered that it actually helped him remain calm, stay focused, and learn to control his emotions. Not only this, it had the potential to change his life for the better.
I won’t retell his whole story, except to give you a spoiler that he has since retired from journalism to focus completely on his work in the meditation world, especially his podcast and app (both also called 10% Happier). I have mixed feelings about the app because the subscription is pricey, in my opinion—especially for folks who need it the most. But I’ll leave it up to you to read his story and come to your own conclusions about the potential impact and benefits of meditation. As a memoir and self-help book, it’s a compelling and thought-provoking read.