Dan Harris, ABC News anchor and author of '10% Happier,' joins Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade with Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi to discuss different tactics to deal with rising anxiety during these uncertain times, how he found mediation as a healthy way to cope, and much more.
BRIAN SOZZI: Our next guest is no stranger to dealing with and overcoming pressure cooker situations. ABC News anchor and founder of 10% Happier, Dan Harris, has reported from war zones and on some of the biggest stories of our time. He joins us now to share some ways to stay mentally sane and healthy during the ongoing pandemic.
Dan, good to see you. Share your tips. Because I'm sure a lot of us-- a lot of folks out there can use them right now.
DAN HARRIS: First thing to say if you're feeling stressed or anxious at a time of pandemic, massive wildfires, political tumult, economic ups and downs, that just means you're paying attention. So I don't want to stigmatize or delegitimize stress or anxiety. It is a natural response of the human organism to difficult circumstances.
The answers, unfortunately, are a little annoying in that they are blatantly obvious. So they include getting enough exercise, getting enough sleep, eating well. Getting exposed to nature is a huge thing. Social connection, the quality of your relationships is probably the biggest thing.
And then the sixth thing I'll add, which is often overlooked because it has its own set of stigmas, is meditation. And I have been a news anchor most of my life, but I discovered meditation 11, 12 years ago. It changed my life and now I have basically shifted much of my attention in my career to evangelizing on behalf of this practice, which a lot of people like me kind of skeptically and reflexively reject.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Now Dan, I think I'm one of those skeptics that you talk about in your book. You know, I've always thought that I couldn't calm my mind enough, you know, to meditate with this sort of deadline driven, go-go industry that we're in, sort of wouldn't be for me. So make the argument for how a novice like myself could get started with meditation.
DAN HARRIS: I mean, there's so many arguments to make. But let me just start with the idea that somehow if you have a calmer, less activated mind that you will be less effective at what you do.
A couple ways to attack this. One is to just point out the phenomenally successful people who do meditate, from the sports world, like Novak Djokovic-- or, although I guess he had an issue recently-- but Chicago Cubs-- by the way, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant-- from the business world, CEOs of massive tech companies, to the journalism world, I do it, George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts.
You can pick high achieving folks and look at how they're using meditation not to numb themselves out. It's not some sort of Calgon, take me away thing. It reduces your emotional reactivity and boosts your focus.
Not for nothing, it also has a whole panoply of health benefits that the research over the last 15, 20 years seem to strongly suggest, such as lowered blood pressure, boosted immune system, and literally rewiring key parts of the brain associated with stress, compassion, and self-awareness.
Just to very quickly add to your, an implied challenge in your question, which is how do I find time for this? I have two little mantras. One is-- or two little slogans. One is one minute counts. And on my meditation app, the 10% Happier meditation app, we have lots of one, two, three minute meditations.
And the second is daily-ish. I would love to see people meditating 5 to 10 minutes every day. But habit formation is really hard. If you set the bar low by saying one minute counts and I'll do it most days or daily-ish, that, science suggests, can get you over the hump.
BRIAN SOZZI: Dan, in the 30 seconds we have left, a lot of this stems from, you were on air and you had a panic attack live on television. As you have reflected on that, did you see any-- were there any one or two signs leading up to that event that said, you know what, maybe I need to take a step back and meditate or just take a vacation?
DAN HARRIS: Yeah. Look, I was running full throttle. I also was depressed after spending a lot of time in war zones. I had some unhealthy activities in my personal life. And when I had that panic attack, I really had to kind of pull the emergency brake. I got therapy. I started meditation. And that's really what's put me on this journey, which is hopefully helping other people as well.