July Book Club Open Topic: How to Be 10% Happier

The benefits of mindfulness and how to achieve it have been touted for a long time, but over the past few years, the number of books, forums, and self-help apps dedicated to the practice has skyrocketed. As technology continues to invade all aspects of our lives, and we find it difficult to get rid of it all, mindfulness promises us an escape, a way to become happier through deliberation and reconciliation with who we really are.

This all sounds great until you ask yourself what it is and why it is so difficult to achieve.

This is what became key to me in Dan Harris’s bestselling book 10% Happier , selected by the July Book Club . Harris is a TV journalist and former war correspondent – it’s a busy life, and as he explains in the first few chapters of his book, his inner critic made things worse. As someone living in New York City who also casually works in the media (and is constantly concerned about the safety of my job, that of my colleagues and friends), I can understand his feelings of inferiority and desire for improvement, while simultaneously wanting to reject those same feelings and motivation. Or, as Harris writes, “we all struggle to find a balance between the image we present to the world and the reality of our inner landscape.”

For Harris, mindfulness in the Buddhist sense of the word, and not in its Western version, was the key to overcoming it all and silencing the inner critic. By his definition, “Mindfulness is the ability to recognize what’s going on in your mind right now – anger, jealousy, sadness, bruised toe pain, etc. – without getting carried away.” This is an “alternative to reactive life”. That sounds good.

Structurally, I found the book enjoyable (and quick) to read – I was never bored and Harris is clearly a gifted storyteller. I also appreciated that he delved into more complex aspects of his life, including not only his drug use, but many small seemingly insignificant things, such as his hairline. We all have things that eat away at us, even if we know they are stupid.

I also appreciated his honesty when he discussed his path to becoming more serious about faith and religion. Faith is central to the lives and identities of countless people, and more journalists and writers (and people in general) would benefit from trying to appreciate or at least understand this.

Most importantly, Harris doesn’t just agree with what the day gurus tell him – he is critical and goes through trial and error on his way to conscious happiness. This is a good lesson for anyone trying to balance.

August Book Club Choice

In August, let’s read Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Order or rent a book and we’ll be back together at the end of the month for a discussion.

If there is something in particular that you would like to see or learn more, leave it in the comments here or email me at alicia.adamczyk@lifehacker.com .

And please let me know what you think of Harris’s book?


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