Someone dear to me introduced this 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 by Dan Harris.
I admit that I am battling stress, anxiety, and overthinking ever since college. It’s hard to sleep and focus on the tasks at hand. All I did was to talk my way out of it with exciting ideas and fun activities with my friends – just to put my attention somewhere else. Other than that, I tried to lay down every night and calm my mind and try to think nothing, just breathing. It somehow helped me, so I called this technique “meditation.”
Over the years, as we grow, our problems grow, our responsibilities grow, but our mind’s capacity to carry this burden would only increase a little. It’s only natural for people to experience stress. Sometimes we experience it by just thinking about where to eat? or when you’re weighing what to watch between your two favorite films. It’s natural – we’re human beings.
When we’re thinking of too many things at once, it confuses us, get us mad. It triggers stress. We get sad because we don’t know what to do. The only thing that we know is what will happen – but is it really going to happen? No, we don’t know. You’re just overthinking. I know, because that’s what I feel almost every time.
Reading Harris’ book helps me – a lot. First, it solidifies my thinking of meditation that I am not weird, and there are people actually doing it. Harris laid down some awesome steps to do it properly, and I am very excited to try. He also told his story of how he got help from taming the voices inside his head and how mindfulness works.
I recommend this book to everyone, especially those quiet individuals who don’t want to talk about their life problems and those overconfident people who don’t admit that they need help.
We are all prone to stress, anxiety, depression, and overthinking during this pandemic – and we can’t blame anyone for that. What we need to do is to take good care of ourselves – “self-care.”
Hence, you’re going to love this book as much as I did. It makes me 10% happier by just reading each page.
Below are some highlights that I had the time to write:
“Our inner chatter isn’t all bad, of course. Sometimes it’s creative, generous, or funny. But if we don’t pay close attention – which very few of us are taught how to do – it can be a malevolent puppeteer.”
“When you’re cut off from your emotions, they often manifest in your body.”
“In his darkest moments, when he was living in that apartment in Arizona, crying every day for a year and a half and actively contemplating suicide, his faith was his main source of comfort. It gave him the sense that his travails were part of a larger plan, that even if everyone on earth hated him, his creator did not.”
“Our entire lives, he argued, are governed by a voice in our heads. This voice is engaged in a ceaseless stream of thinking – most of it negative repetitive, and self -referential. It squawks away at us from the minute we open our eyes in the morning until the minute we fall asleep at night, if it allows us to sleep at all.”
“Talk, talk, talk: the voice is constantly judging and labeling everything in its field of vision. Its targets aren’t just external; it often viciously taunts us too.”
“We live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation.”
“The present moment is all we’ve got. We experienced everything in our past through present moment, and we will experience everything in the future the same way.”
“Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get the next moment, and imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one. That is continuous stress.”
“When you’re totally present, whatever the situation is, good or bad, it’s gonna pass. The only thing that remains is the moment. It’s the transformational vortex to the infinite. If you stay in the moment, you’ll have what is called spontaneous right action, which is intuitive, which is creative, which is visionary, which eavesdrop on the mind of the universe.”
“We are constantly murmuring, muttering, scheming, or wondering to ourselves under our breath.”
“For a person with terrible judgement, you did a great job with the most important decision of your life.”
“Epstein et.al. argued that the only way to tame the monkey mind, to truly glimpse impermanence and defeat our habitual tendency toward clinging was to meditate.”
“Mindfulness is the ability to recognize what is happening in your mind right now – anger, jealousy, sadness, the pain of a stubbed toe, whichever – without getting carried away by it.”
“Mindfulness gives us a way to examine our self-hatred without trying to make it go away, without trying to love it particularly.”
“Tara Brach nailed the method for applying mindfulness in the acute situations, albeit with somewhat dopey acronym: RAIN”
“Recognize – its like agreeing to pause in the face of what’s here, and just acknowledge the actuality.”
“Allow – is where you lean to into it. Let it be. Offer the inner whisper of yes.”
“Investigate – check out how they’re affecting my body. Is it making my face hot, my chest buzzy, my head throb?”
“Non-identification – meant seeing that just because I was feeling angry or jealous or fearful, that did not render me a permanently angry or jealous person. These were just passing states of mind.”
“Seeing a problem clearly does not prevent you from taking action. Acceptance is not passivity. Sometimes we are just justifiably displeased.”
“What mindfulness does is create some space in your head so you can respond rather than simply react.”
“You can’t control what comes up in your head; it all arises out of a mysterious void. We spend a lot of time judging ourselves harshly for feelings that we had no role in summoning. The only thing you can control is how you handle it.”
“It’s the total opposite of daily life, where we do something and expect a result. Here, it’s just sitting with whatever is there.”
“It’s okay to worry, plot and plan, but only until it’s not useful anymore.”
“I do it because it makes me 10% happier.”
“Happiness is a skill.”
“It’s a neuroscience that would say that our capacity to ‘multitask’ is virtually nonexistent. Multitasking is a computer-derived term. We have one processor. We can’t do it. When you’re moving from this project to this project, your mind flits back to the original project, and it can’t pick it up where it left off. So it has to take a few steps back and then ramp up again, and that’s where the productivity loss is.”
“Pauses are the ways to make you a more clear thinker and for you to be more focused on what’s important.”
“Practice of compassion is ultimately benefit to you. We are selfish, but be wise selfish rather than foolish selfish.”
“Practicing compassion appeared to be helping their bodies handle stress in a better way. Overall, compassionate people tend to be healthier, happier, more popular, and more successful at work.”
“The biggest obstacle to ‘mudita’ (Buddhist term for sympathetic joy) is a subconscious illusion, that whatever success the other people has achieved was actually somehow really meant for us.”
“When faced with something like this, often it’s not that unknown that scares us, its what we think we know what’s going to happen – and that it’s going to be bad. But the truth is, we really don’t know.”
“Fear of annihilation can lead to great insight, because it reminds us of impermanence and the fact that we are not in control.”
“It’s okay to be ambitious, but don’t be attached to the results. When you’re wisely ambitious, you do everything you can do to succeed, but you are not attached to the outcome – so that if you fail, you will be maximally resilient, able to get up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fray.”
“And while I still worry about work, learning to ‘care and not to care’ at least 10% of the time, has freed me up to focus more on the parts of the job that matters most – such as covering great stories like this one.”