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Book Review: 10% Happier By Dan Harris

If someone were to ask you how life is going right now, that would probably be a loaded question. We’re in the middle of one of the worst pandemics in history, a combative election process to say the least, and a society seemingly more polarized than it’s ever been. And that’s only in addition to the normal parade of terrible usually associated with the 24-hour news cycle and the regular burdens of everyday life. Let’s face it, saying life is stressful would be an understatement.

In his book, 10% Happier, Dan Harris (war correspondent and current anchor for Dateline NBC) approaches this issue from the context of an ambitious overworked professional in the news business. After multiple instances of drug and workaholic induced burnout events, Harris sets out on a personal journey to discover how to achieve a clearer head and hopefully a happier life. His journey brings him to a Christian evangelical pastor, several self-help gurus including Deepak Chopra, and finally to several influential Buddhist thinkers in the United States. From the Buddhist teachings, Harris learns of the benefits (and in some ways power) of meditation and mindfulness, the exercise of slowing down, focusing, and considering what is currently happening in the moment (including noticing emotions, physical sensations, and external events). Harris eventually comes to the conclusion that meditation and mindfulness act as a way to create space in his life and drain his tanks to give him the capacity to be, what he calls, 10% happier.

While Harris’s account is essentially an anecdotal take on how meditation and other mindfulness techniques helped him become 10% happier and achieve more sustainable success, there is ample scientific evidence (some of which is discussed in the book) that the practices of meditation and mindfulness are extremely helpful in lessening stress, lowering blood pressure, and achieving a more sustainable lifestyle.

Lawyers, CPAs, and anyone else who works in high-pressure stressful professions are keenly aware of the dangers that excessive stress and overwork can bring. But the lessons found in 10% Happier are not just for those with stressful jobs, but for anyone experiencing feelings of being rundown, burned out, or even just exhaustion with how life is. Even if your worldview does not endorse the use of eastern meditation, the same lessons can be applied to the practices of prayer or just the practice of being silent. Carving out time in our days where we shut out the distractions of the world and the stresses that the day has in store for us and engage silently with what we are currently feeling will prove to be invaluable in dealing with what will come.

As a Christian who has experienced both seasons of regular and irregular prayer life, I can attest personally that seasons where I have regularly taken time away from distractions, slowed things down, and engaged in quiet moments of prayer are seasons where life seems more manageable, and my capacity to appreciate and love my family while working productively and diligently is greatly expanded.

For those interested in mindfulness and meditation practices and hearing, at least anecdotally, from someone who has experienced them in the midst of an extremely stressful lifestyle, I recommend reading 10% Happier.

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