10 Things We Learned From “10% Happier”
“Tame the Voice in Your Head and Reduce Stress”
I won’t lie—I was skeptical of “10% Happier” before I started reading the book. It’s not that I thought meditation or mindfulness was for hippies or Buddhists (like the author, Dan Harris); I just thought it was something I’d never do. Plus—why would our company even want us to read a book about meditation for our monthly book club in the first place? Did Graphcom really want its employees wandering around like zombies all the time?
Much like Harris, I had a great deal to learn about meditation, and how it could help both my personal and professional life. It turns out that Harris and I have very similar thought patterns, skepticisms, and mental tendencies; honestly, the book seemed (potentially) life changing for me. I can now say that I have meditated four times, and I am looking forward to keeping it up and seeing where it takes me. In the meantime, here are some of the most constructive points that I drew from “10% Happier.”
1. Buddhism is “advanced common sense.”
It encourages you to analyze and practice basic rules of logic until they become second nature. For example, the No. 1 Buddhist principle for the modern worker is…(drumroll, please): Don’t be a jerk. How simple (and appropriate) is that?
2. Everyone has a voice in their head that constantly worries, wants, judges, rejects, and compares.
How you handle that voice plays a significant role in how happy and successful you can be.
3. A key concept of meditation is mindfulness.
It’s the ability to recognize what is happening in your mind at any given moment and not let it control you.
4. Respond, don’t react.
Instead of allowing your thoughts to permeate your mind and take control of your body, take a moment to pause and think about the most effective way to act.
Recently, I received some feedback from a client that didn’t exactly make me happy. In fact, it frustrated and confused me, and made me question how I was responding to situations. I knew the feedback would have a similar impact on other teammates that I had to relay the information to.
Instead of running over to them and venting about how I felt, I recognized it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. I acknowledged my feelings, and I took a while to let them wash over before I responded. I contemplated the best way to approach the situation, and I went in with a clear mind and a better attitude.
It turns out, I was able to (somewhat) control the reactions of my coworkers, bringing them to a more realistic, positive, and calm state of mind. In turn, they responded instead of reacting, too.
5. “When you squelch something, you give it power. Ignorance is not bliss.”
Acknowledging and confronting your problems is not a sign of weakness—it is a sign of strength.
6. Meditation will not eliminate worry, and it doesn’t aim to.
A certain amount of concern is necessary to stay ahead in life. Ask yourself, “Is this useful?” If it isn’t, you need to acknowledge it and let it go.
A few days ago I began to have the onset of what felt like a panic attack. I was overanalyzing and overthinking an event that had happened days beforehand. I had no control over what had happened; it was in the past. And I knew, deep inside, that I was overthinking the situation and that nobody had seen it the way that I had. I got so wrapped up in those emotions that I forgot to practice mindfulness; I forgot all logic.
Suddenly, I realized that this was the perfect time to practice meditation. It was really hard at first; my mind kept wandering to that one situation, those negative emotions, and useless thought patterns. But eventually, it got easier. After only six minutes (that’s as long as I can last right now!), I felt at ease.
I still frequently wonder, “How much longer do I have left?” while I’m meditating, but my ability to truly clear my head and focus on my breath is getting better every time, and the time is starting to go by faster and faster.
7. Striving for success is perfectly healthy, as long as you realize that the result is not always within your control.
Removing your attachment to the result will build your resilience and help you control your reactions.
8. Many people are in a constant state of “hedonic adaptation,” or the tendency to quickly return to a stable emotional level, despite significant positive or negative changes.
We live so much of our lives pushed forward by “if only” thoughts. “If only I lose 10 lbs, I’ll be happy. If only I get this promotion, I’ll be satisfied.” Once we achieve those goals, we slide right back into old habits and look for the next hurdle, rather than embracing and appreciating what we have now.
9. Studies have proven that meditation really is good for you.
It can produce an incredible amount of beneficial effects on depression, drug addiction, binge eating, smoking cessation, ADHD, asthma, psoriasis, and irritable bowel syndrome. Not to mention, it can reduce stress levels and increase focus levels.
10. Embrace minimal improvements.
Everything can’t happen for you all at once. Similar to losing weight, you are not going to see results over night. Patience and persistence are key in training your mind to function differently.
And training your brain is indeed possible, thanks to neuroplasticity. Sculpting your mind and changing your thought processes are just as possible as sculpting your body. You just have to work for it.
Above all else, enjoy the journey, and recognize your successes. Surprisingly enough, after I finished this blog post I thought of at least five more items I could add. I started regretting the way I went about writing and questioning whether I included everything that needed to be included…I thought to myself, “What the heck was I thinking writing a blog post? No one is going to read this. No one is going to like this. I don’t know what I’m doing!”
I quickly caught myself and took a note from my lessons on mindfulness—I took a moment, acknowledged those thoughts, and promptly moved on.
Well done, Ms. Schonhaut! This is an excellent recap of an excellent book. I personally appreciated and related to the raw emotion of Dan Harris. I too began meditating because of this book and while I haven’t been able to be that consistent, I do find myself using the practice when I come across a difficult situation. And to your point, mindfulness is a difficult but wonderful place to be, inside of your head. Everything is brighter, more transparent and easier to understand (or know that you can’t!), when you practice mindfulness.
Keep up the great work and you’ll continue to find additional percentage points to happiness! Incrementally, of course 😉
Oh! And on my nightstand at the moment is “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff”, by Pappy Pariah. Sometimes funny, but definitely weird… worth the read, if you’re into political satire.
This blog is very well written and insightful. The writer should be commended for her efforts.