10 Percent Happier summary

10 Percent Happier Summary and Review | Dan Harris

Life gets busy. Has 10 Percent Happier been gathering dust on your bookshelf? Instead, pick up the key ideas now.

We’re scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have the book, order the book or get the audiobook for free to learn the juicy details.

Are you stuck in a never-ending rut? Do you feel like your life is falling apart in slow motion, and you can’t do anything to control it?

If so, you’re not alone.

Many of us feel trapped in our current situation, never to rise again. Luckily, a book addresses this feeling and helps us understand how to get rid of it.

10% Happier by Dan Harris gives us mindfulness tips and helps us take control of our lives. No matter how unhappy you may feel, Harris can help you take it up by 10%.

Dan Harris’ Perspective

Dan Harris is a retired journalist who used to work for ABC News. He was an anchor for Nightline and a co-anchor for Good Morning America.

He has reported on multiple stories, from natural disasters to mass shootings. He has reported from combat zones and solitary confinement.

For his reporting, Harris won the Edward R. Murrow Award for his time reporting on a young Iraqi man who needed help moving to the United States. Further, he won an Emmy Award in 2009 for his work on Nightline’s special, “How to Buy a Child in Ten Hours.”

During his time with ABC News, he suffered from anxiety and depression. He even had an on-air panic attack in 2004.

To aid his depression, he turned to cocaine and other vices.

From these challenging times, Harris found the light. Now, he swears that meditation is the self-help solution that helped him get out of the darkest times in his life.

Dan Harris follows the RAIN technique, which stands for Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Non-Identification. He uses this acronym when he needs to apply mindfulness techniques in acute situations.

First, recognize your feelings, then allow those feelings to exist. Next, figure out how your body has changed because of those feelings. Lastly, note that your emotions do not define you.

In 10% Happier, Dan Harris reflects on transitioning from a stressed-out news anchor to an active meditator. If you’re skeptical about meditation, Harris covers all critical standpoints. He was once a critic himself.

StoryShot #1: Practice Compassion

In 10% Happier, Dan Harris talks about many of his experiences as a news reporter. He had multiple opportunities to interview people around the world. 

One of the experiences that he documents is interviewing the Dalai Lama. This part of the book teaches us the importance of practicing compassion. The Dalai Lama says practicing kindness in our daily lives can help us become happier.

Further, he tells us that our human tendency is to put ourselves first. It’s our instinct: self-preservation.

It may seem unnatural to fight this instinct, but that leads us toward happiness. After all, this instinct is one thing that keeps us from the happiness we deserve.

If you’re skeptical, consider what happiness research has shown. Scientists have discovered that the happiness centers of our brains light up when we perform acts of kindness toward others. In turn, we become kinder when we’re happier.

It’s a neverending cycle of happiness. Being kind makes up happier, and being happy makes us kinder.

The next time you’re overwhelmed with thoughts of self-preservation, look around. There may be someone that you can help at that moment.

By reaching out to others, we can reach out to ourselves, too. We’re saving our happiness while considering others’ needs.

StoryShot #2: Assert Yourself

After all that talk about compassion, we’ll switch the narrative to how we can assert ourselves. Caring for others is essential, but so is standing up for ourselves.

10% Happier mentions that Sufi Muslims have a saying: “Praise Allah, but also tie your camel to the post.” We can learn a lot from this saying.

First and foremost, it tells us that we can pray for something to happen but also provide us with backup in case that doesn’t happen.

Second, we can apply this saying to niceties. There are plenty of reasons to be nice to people, but there are also situations where this may not be the best choice. 

You can be friendly without letting the world walk all over you.

You need to discover where your median is to find your inner peace. Where does the nice you diverge from the assertive you?

A lot of people find this divergence at the place where their boundaries lie.

Whatever boundaries we set for ourselves can help us determine what we should and should not do.

For example, you may have a boundary that you don’t work on weekends. So, you know to say ‘no’ anytime you’re asked to pick up a weekend shift.

It’s not rude. It’s a boundary.

If you’re worried about making people mad with these boundaries, you should reexamine your reasons for setting them.

Why don’t you want to work on the weekends? If it’s time that you want to spend with your children, say that.

People will be more likely to respect your decision.

StoryShot #3: Try Meditation

For decades, Dan Harris has talked about how meditation has changed his life. He went from a drug addict to a meditation guru. 

Meditation comes with a long list of benefits:

  • Easing anxiety
  • Lowering pain levels
  • Decreasing blood pressure
  • Aiding sleep problems
  • Lowering resting heart rate
  • Bettering creativity
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Gaining a new perspective

There are hundreds of studies that link meditation to a variety of benefits. From healing chronic illnesses to easing mental health, meditation can physically, mentally, and emotionally improve your life.

If you’d like to experience these benefits, you should get started just like Dan Harris did. 

First, sit comfortably. You may want to sit on a pillow or find a comfy spot on a couch or bed, but you should keep your spine straight.

Once you settle, pay attention to your breath. Notice what it feels like as you breathe in and out. 

If you’re having trouble focusing, try to pay attention to one area of your body. You may choose to pay attention to how your nostrils flare or decide to focus on how your chest rises and falls. 

You may also need to talk aloud to help yourself track your breaths. Simply saying “in” and “out” may help you focus more on your breathing.

You’ll find that your attention wanders as you do this for an extended time. Getting distracted is normal.

Each time this happens, you just have to bring it back in. Bring your focus back to your breathing and forget whatever was distracting you.

Complete this practice for a least a few minutes every day. 

StoryShot #4: Worry About the Things That Matter

Some things are worth your time and energy. Others are not.

Separating which ones are from which ones aren’t is the key to helping you become happier.

In 10% Happier by Dan Harris, we learn that you don’t have to spend your life in perfect solace to benefit from mindfulness and meditation. The small, everyday decisions make a difference in your emotional state.

When you’re worried about something, ask yourself, “Is this useful?”

If your worrying is helping you cope with something, continue with your emotions. Sometimes, we must sit in our negative emotions to appreciate our current situation.

However, if your worrying only adds negativity to your life, you should center yourself and stop. You may not be able to turn the worrying off immediately, but you should be able to center yourself and find the control to bring this negative emotion to a grinding halt.

Spending too much time worrying about unimportant things we can’t control will only contribute to our unhappiness.

We’ve created this false narrative that we must try to control everything. In actuality, taking control isn’t our job.

We’re supposed to control our reactions to what the world throws at us. Trying to handle uncontrollable situations will only do more to worsen our emotional state.

The next time you worry over something, ask yourself whether it’s worth your energy. You’ll likely find it’s not.

StoryShot #5: Creativity Doesn’t Have to Come From Depression

We all know the tale of an artist. They create things through depression and sadness.

They cannot create effectively without going through these negative times in their lives.

In 10% Happier, we find out this is wrong.

Serenity is not the enemy of creativity. In other words, calmness does not negate creativeness.

Finding happiness will not turn off your creative side or mute your imagination. You don’t have to suffer for your art.

Once we’re free from the cages of our worry, we can channel our creativity more effectively. We may find that we’re not as stopped as before. Say goodbye to writer’s block!

When your brain isn’t worried about a million different things, it has time to think. So, you’ll be able to write, paint, read, dance, and create as you please.

In fact, it may help to complete your daily meditations before you decide to work on any projects you have in the works. You may be able to clean up your mind before focusing on creative outlets.

As you embark on your journey toward happiness, you shouldn’t worry about losing your muse. Even if you’ve focused on depressive inlets in the past, you may be able to transform your work.

If you enjoy writing about the dreadful things in life, being happy won’t take that away. It’ll free up your mind to think more clearly about the topics you want to address.

We should continue on our journeys to happiness, despite what we may think about suffering artists.

StoryShot #6: Don’t Force Change

While on the road to happiness, many people lose sight of what they’re doing. They may be practicing meditation, showcasing positive characteristics, and checking off each item on the list of happiness.

This doesn’t mean anything.

Our journeys to happiness will take a lifetime. Being happy is a choice that you work toward and make every day.

When we see happy people, they aren’t always that way. They don’t have some secret genetic trick that makes them happy. They choose to be happy, despite whatever life throws at them at that moment.

Like them, you’re not going to wake up one day and suddenly be happy. Similarly, being happy one day does not guarantee happiness the next.

We can’t force happiness, so we shouldn’t try. We’ll only waste our time and energy. It’s also likely that this will cause unhappiness in the end.

We may unintentionally put pressure on ourselves to find happiness, especially during the darkest times in our lives. No matter the situation, we have to fight this urge.

Putting unrelenting pressure on ourselves will only lead to unhappiness, no matter how positively we think we may be applying that pressure.

The next time you feel frustrated about your current state, you should remember that you can’t solve everything with sheer force.

It’s like trying to open a pickle jar with a caked-on lid. Sometimes, we need a little bit of warmth to get it to open.

Think about this metaphor next time you try to bring happiness into your life. You may just need a little bit of warmth.

StoryShot #7: Humility Prevents Humiliation

Another lesson we can learn from 10% Happier by Dan Harris is that humility prevents humiliation. For many of us, it’s our brain’s instinct to tell us how great we are.

After all, we’re the protagonist in our own stories. We’re the good guys, no matter what.

Even when we’re worrying our heads off, our brains tell us that we’re doing this for a reason. Consequently, we’re good no matter what’s running through our brains.

Lacking humility in the worst of situations can only lead to more problems. With this mindset, we’re more likely to make mistakes. In turn, we get in our own ways as we’re trying to achieve things daily.

For example, you may be trying to solve Problem A. Because our brains think we’re the best of the best, they’ll try to solve this problem themselves, even when there’s someone sitting next to us that can help.

We’re too proud of ourselves and our abilities to let them help us. We’d rather suffer in silence and hold onto our pride.

Thus, we’re getting in our own ways without realizing it.

We could easily look over our shoulders and ask for help, getting the problem done quickly. However, our self-obsession would typically stop us from doing so. We want the credit and satisfaction of figuring out the problem ourselves.

Think about a time in your life when your dogmatism may have led you to stop yourself from getting something done. It may seem silly now.

Next time, remember that it’s okay to admit that we aren’t the best at everything. It’s okay to ask for help and reach out to others. In fact, it can prevent us from humiliating ourselves.

StoryShot #8: Don’t Overuse the Internal Cattle Prod

We’re approaching yet another dichotomy.

Our brains love to tell us we’re amazing. Yet, they also like to tell us we’re horrible.

Dan Harris calls this self-criticism our “internal cattle prod.” 

Our internal cattle prods drive a lot of us. It’s our gauge for determining how great (or not great) we’re doing. 

If we feel self-criticism, it means we need to work harder. If we don’t feel that dread, we might be doing okay for now.

In 10% Happier, we learn to go easy with the internal cattle prod. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up over small things or expect mighty results out of ourselves all the time.

In fact, less self-criticism can lead to better results.

Dan Harris uses self-compassion meditation as an example.

People who practice this kind of meditation are more likely to stick to habits and rituals, like smoking cessation or dieting. Why is this? Well, they have more self-compassion, so they’re more likely to bounce back from missteps.

Rather than beating yourself up every time you fail, you should consider learning from your failures. 

If you keep beating yourself up every time you fail, you’re going to be terrified of failing. In actuality, there’s nothing wrong with failing.

In fact, failing is one of the best ways to grow and learn. All of the greats have failed many times.

You’re no different. You’re going to fail.

What matters is how you react to those failures. Next time you find yourself down about a mistake, remember that you should learn from the opportunity.

Think about how you can change your strategy next time.

StoryShot #9: Limit Attachment to Your Results

We’re all obsessed with getting certain results. We may want to lose a certain amount of weight or make a certain amount of money.

We fixate on numbers and statistics to help us achieve our goals.

While these specific goal-setting practices are great when it comes to defining our goals more clearly, they are not great when it comes to failure.

As we just discussed, failure is inevitable. It’s going to happen whether you want it to or not. 

If we don’t meet a goal that we’ve set, we may think of this as a failure, even if the failure wasn’t our fault.

There’s nothing wrong with striving for a certain result. In fact, it may be perfect for data-oriented individuals who need numbers to feel motivated. However, striving for these results should not be the end-all-be-all for your life.

Sometimes, we have to let the chips fall as they may. We can do everything in our power to work toward something and still have trouble reaching that final goal.

Limiting how attached we are to our final results can make it easier for us to swallow whatever those results are. Rather than freaking out because we only made it to 90% of our goal, we can feel happy about the progress we’ve made.

Dan Harris isn’t asking us to completely detach our feelings, but we should limit our overarching emotions that can make goal-setting disappointing.

With this in mind, we’ll be able to face every failure with positivity.

StoryShot #10: Focus on What’s Important to You

In 10% Happier, one of the major themes is finding out what’s important to you as a person. Each time we’re thinking about one of these StoryShots, we should consider how it falls into the greater scheme of things.

What is your purpose in life? What are your personal and professional goals? What things are important to you?

Knowing your answers to these questions can make life a whole lot clearer. It will also help you set boundaries, know yourself better, and find happiness faster.

Many of us may just say that we want “more.” In the absence of the definition of “more,” all we’re doing is grasping at straws. We can’t say we want more than we have without defining what exactly we’re looking for.

Further, we have to apply the things that we love to all areas of our lives. 

We can only find true, uninterrupted happiness if we’re focusing on the things we love all the time.

Our homes should be full of love. Our work lives should be full of passion. Our hearts should be full, period.

As you’re crafting a life of happiness, you should begin to focus only on those activities, people, and things you truly care for. Don’t waste your time on things that don’t bring you joy.

Unfortunately, giving yourself happiness may lead to quitting your job, moving out of town, or removing people from your life. Without our life’s purpose in mind, we can make these decisions without hesitation.

It may be difficult, but these are the changes that need to happen if you’re going to create the life you’ve been waiting for.


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