Last night “Nightline” co-anchor Dan Harris chatted with Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report” about the enormous benefits of meditation practice and how it practically saved his life, and we loved every minute of it. Harris, an Emmy-winning journalist who’s covered stories from tragic shootings to natural disasters to the Iraq War, has a new book out about happiness. We know, enough already about self-helpiness and ways to make you HAPPY, right? We were skeptical when we heard the super lengthy title of his book: 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story. Cue the sad trombone.
BUT, his book actually sounds pretty interesting. And Harris’ story is incredibly interesting. As an ABC correspondent, Harris has covered a lot of war-torn areas and tragedies. As a result he had experienced post-traumatic stress which then led to depression and his clinging to drugs like cocaine and ecstasy just to stay afloat doing his job. But that self-destruction couldn’t last, and eventually it led to a nationally televised panic attack on “Good Morning America” in 2004.
Realizing he needed to make a change, Harris took it upon himself to hang with some self-help gurus and brain scientists and, in his investigative reportiness, get down to the nitty gritty of what we call being happy. Being an atheist he wasn’t impressed with religious methods, but after meeting a Buddhist therapist and teacher, Dr. Mark Epstein, he found that taming the voice in his head was the key to finding happiness within, and that meditation was the key to doing that.
As the Amazon book description puts it:
Eventually, Harris realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had both propelled him through the ranks of a hyper-competitive business and also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out.
We all have a voice in our head. It’s what has us losing our temper unnecessarily, checking our email compulsively, eating when we’re not hungry, and fixating on the past and the future at the expense of the present. Most of us would assume we’re stuck with this voice – that there’s nothing we can do to rein it in – but Harris stumbled upon an effective way to do just that. It’s a far cry from the miracle cures peddled by the self-help swamis he met; instead, it’s something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation. After learning about research that suggests meditation can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain, Harris took a deep dive into the underreported world of CEOs, scientists, and even marines who are now using it for increased calm, focus, and happiness.
And that’s about the least hokey happiness-related thing we’ve heard in a good while. Watch Dan Harris in conversation with the ever entertaining Stephen Colbert below. And read an excerpt from his book here.
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