10% Happier: Book Summary & Review

10% happier book cover

In 10% Happier author Dan Harris shares his journey into meditation and mindfulness, and how it helped him improve his life.

Bullet Summary

  • Meditation will help you become more mindful
  • Mindful means you are aware of what’s going on around and within yourself
  • And will you be able to better control your mind

Full Summary

Dan Harris wanted to make sense of meditation and mindfulness.
And use it to improve his life in practical terms: becoming less stressed and happier.

10% Happier is the story of how he achieved that.

Ego Is The Voice In Your Head

Dan Harris says that ego is the voice in our head. No in the psychotic terms, but as the normal voice we all have that comments on our actions and behavior.
The voice for example that tells you “I’m too tired to go out”.

But the author also expands on the notion of ego. He says it’s also what makes you check the fridge when you’re not actually hungry, and what makes you check your email -or your Facebook feed- a hundred times a day.

All these ego-driven actions do not do anything to make you happier.
And by learning to control the ego we can all become a bit happier.

The Ego Is Never Happy, Always Wants More

Dan Harris says that the ego is never satisfied, it always demands for more.

Whenever you get what you want, a new toy or a new pay rise, it becomes your new standard and the ego starts wanting more.

The ego also loves compares.
It compares what you don’t have with what others have, and it makes you jealous and unhappy.

The ego doesn’t live in the present but in the past and future.
And it particularly loves living in the past. It loves revisiting old wounds to make you feel the pain in the present.

The ego is an endless pit of dissatisfaction.
And when you learn to control the ego, you learn to become happier.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Through meditation we can learn mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the ability to become aware of our surroundings and our inner impulses without having to react on them.

Do you remember how our ego dwells in the past and worries about the future?
Well, mindfulness helps us stay in the present without letting the worries of the future and the pains of the past affect us.

Meditation also helps you to become more compassionate towards others and towards yourself.
A study even showed that people who meditate are more attuned with others, use less the word “I” and even laugh more.

Mindfulness Gives a Fourth Option

Most people have three modes with which they relate to the world around them.
They:

  • Want something
  • Reject someting
  • Zone out (ie.: don’t care)

Mindfulness gives you a fourth option:

  • Observing without judgement

Accept Negative Emotions (Without Denying Them)

Dan Harris says meditation does not cure everything (of course).

And it cannot make negative feelings and emotions go away.

However, it helps in the way you cope with them.
You do it in four steps:

  1. Recognize the emotion
  2. Allow it to exist
  3. Investigate what it’s causing
  4. Separation: emotions are not you, so don’t take them on board

Dan Harris says that rejecting emotions, or worst trying to repress them with drugs will only worsen the problem.
That’s what he was trying to do with the trauma he was battling after having been a reporter in a war zone.

And that led him to a panic attack while on air.
Here’s the video:

Mindfulness is NOT Pushover

The author says that many fear becoming more mindful because that could mean becoming “softer” and a pushover.

Not true.
Learning to control your ego does not mean you forget about your needs and wants.
As a matter of fact, it helps you gain clarity on what you want and need. And it helps you achieve your goals by becoming more productive and getting more creative ideas.

Indeed Dan Harris realized that stress and competition were not  the most effective ways to fuel his drive.
And that controlling his urges was in and by itself a great mental challenge.

How to Meditate

Sit comfortable and focus on your breath.
Your mind will naturally wander, and that’s OK. Every time, take it back to your breath.

Sometimes you will have some light discomfort while meditating, like an itching or a slight ache.
And that’s when you can start to apply the principles of mindfulness: observe it without intervening.

As you do it more and more, you will be able to apply mindfulness to more complex thoughts and feelings.

How Meditation Helps

Dan Harris says that meditation helps with:

  • Depression
  • Drug addiction and smoking
  • Binge eating
  • ADHD
  • Asthma
  • Psoriasis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Real Life Applications

More compassionate towards yourself
If I take one great concept away from 10% happier is that compassion doesn’t just apply to the people around you.
But it applies to yourself as well.
It means you are more understanding of your mistakes and shortcomings, and you are less judgmental of your character and behavior.
Great stuff.

CONS

Bit Unscientific and Generic on “Ego”
I didn’t find it to be very accurate in its psychological description.
As a matter of fact I was reading about the ego I was starting to have a low opinion of 10% Happier.

PROS

Grounded and Practical
There is no woo-woo or big words here. Indeed the author found books such The Power of Now too complex and wanted something simpler.
He achieved it.
10% is about what meditation and mindfulness does for you and how it can help you in daily life.

Review

10% Happier is a very good book.

It strikes a great balance between meditation and eastern philosophies and the Western life of those who want to work hard and achieve.

That means no woo-woo stuff and a lot of practical tips on how meditation helped the author improve his life.
No need to go to India, tripping on LSD or becoming a guru.

I especially recommend 10% Happier for people who are very driven -if you’re reading this website, chances that you are-, and people who might suffer from stress by overwork.

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