Mr. Harris is the author of 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress without Losing My Edge and Found Self-Help That Actually Works, his 2014 New York Times bestseller. Now, in addition to anchoring ABC Nightline and Good Morning America, Mr. Harris speaks about his transition from meditation skeptic to proponent.
A former war correspondent, Mr. Harris said he was addicted to the adrenaline of war zones, and found himself depressed when at home.
“I did a stupendously dumb thing: I self-medicated,” he recalled of the stimulants that led to his on-air panic attack in 2004 in front of five million viewers on Good Morning America.
Mr. Harris sought the help of a psychiatrist and stopped using drugs. Then he started covering religion and spirituality for ABC, reporting on everything from mega-churches and mosques to self-help gurus. It was during this work that he encountered the Buddhist concept of “monkey brain” – the nagging voice of doubt in your head.
“It’s that voice that makes you feel like you’ve been kidnapped by the most boring person ever; the voice that’s mostly negative, self-referential, and yanks you around,” joked Mr. Harris.
He met experts, such as Eckhart Tolle, who suggested controlling that voice with “mindful meditation,” and decided to try it. Indeed, just ten minutes of meditation helped calm his anxiety. He now meditates up to two hours a day.
“We live in an information Blitzkrieg,” he said. “Mindfulness is the ability to know what is happening in your head … without getting carried away by it.”
As Mr. Harris noted, studies show that meditation can improve a host of medical challenges. For example, a study at Harvard found that people who meditated for just eight weeks grew the gray matter in the areas of their brains associated with self-awareness and compassion while reducing the brain region associated with stress.
Hun student Cristian Lara ’17 noted after Mr. Harris’ talk that he meditates daily to reduce the frequency of headaches. “I am already a believer, and will definitely check out Mr. Harris’ book,” he said.
“We could not have asked for a better storyteller than Dan Harris,” said Upper School Head Ryan Hews. “His courage in sharing his experience was inspiring and thought provoking for our entire school community.”
Mr. Harris was part of The Hun School Centennial Speakers Series, which annually brings notable experts, thought leaders and artists to the School.