How Peter Jennings Helped Dan Harris Kick the Habit and Get Well

By Chris Ariens 

Dan HarrisThese days he’s a regular on “Good Morning America” weekends and on “Nightline,” but 10 years ago, while filling in on weekday “GMA” Dan Harris had a panic attack. “Halfway through the six stories I was supposed to read, I simply bailed, squeaking out a ‘Back to you,'” Harris says. A doctor told him his recreational drug habit was messing with his head, leading to the panic attacks.

“In 2003, after spending several years covering the wars in Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine and Iraq, I became depressed,” Harris says. “In an act of towering stupidity, I began to self-medicate, dabbling with cocaine and ecstasy. I knew I needed to make some changes to get my life in check — but I didn’t know how, or what they would be, exactly.

Harris writes about the experience in a new 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

Harris says his boss and mentor Peter Jennings, at the time the anchor of “World News Tonight,” assigned him to cover faith. “Thus began a strange little odyssey,” he says.

So, what helped?

I became a reluctant convert to meditation.

Before you stop reading, let me point out that I am not a stereotypical meditator. In fact, I’d always had — and still have, really — an allergy to all things touchy-feely and New Age-y. As it turns out, though, meditation doesn’t require robes, incense, crystals, Cat Stevens or “clearing the mind.” It’s exercise for your brain. And there’s good science to back this up.

Meditation is a tool for taming the voice in your head. You know the voice I’m talking about. It’s what has us constantly ruminating on the past or projecting into the future. It prods us to incessantly check our email, lurch over to the fridge when we’re not hungry, and lose our temper when it’s not in our best interest.