Seven Tips for Becoming 10 Percent Happier

CIW 2014 speaker and ABC News anchor Dan Harris is a self-described “fidgety, skeptical newsman.” But when an on-air panic attack forced him to reevaluate his workaholic, devil-may-care attitude, he momentarily ditched his skepticism and took up a practice that he had once looked down on as the domain of Namaste-saying, John Tesh–listening, hippie-dippy types: meditation. Now, Harris is here to tell all of us how just a few minutes of meditation a day may just keep negativity at bay.

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1. Hey, some clichés are true.

“Most meditation clichés make me want to put a pencil into my eye, but the cliché of ‘respond, not react’ is so, so useful. It’s so powerful that it can make a huge difference in your life.”

 2. Don’t let the voice in your head yank you around.

“[Eckhart] Tolle’s thesis is that when you are unaware of this nonstop conversation that you are having with yourself, it yanks you around. It’s why you all of a sudden find yourself with your hand in the fridge when you’re not even hungry, why you’re checking your mobile device when your children are trying to talk to you, why you’re losing your temper when it’s not in your best interest.”

3. Not to be a downer, but positive thinking probably won’t solve all of your problems.

“I met a lot of questionable people who would tell you that you can solve all of your problems through the power of positive thinking, which I hate to break to you is not going to happen.”

4. But there is power in expanding your thinking.

“[On assignment for ABC News], I spent…years in mosques and Mormon temples and mega-churches. I made great friends, I learned a lot [and] I realized how ignorant I was on many, many levels. I really saw the power of having a worldview that transcends your own narrow interests.”

5. Just say no.

“After having two panic attacks, I went to a doctor who was an expert in panic to try to figure out what was going on. He asked me a series of questions to diagnose the problem, and one of the questions was, ‘Do you do drugs?’ To which I sheepishly responded, ‘Yeah, I do.’… In that moment it hit me, very powerfully, what a moron I’d been, and I made two big decisions. One was I quit using drugs, which was kind of a no-brainer. And, two, I decided to go see this shrink indefinitely and weekly.”

6. Just say yes (to meditation). Sure, meditation is a weird fringe interest, but so was jogging once.

“[Meditation] is a radical act. You are breaking a lifelong habit of walking around in a fog of projection and rumination.”

7. You can practice your way to happiness—or at least to being happier.

“Happiness is a skill, something you can train just the way you train your body in the gym. That is a tremendously liberating notion.”

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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