Are you holed-up and snowbound today? Home with the flu? Just plain lazy, lethargic, tamasic? Sounds like a good opportunity to watch an inspiring TED talk.With grateful permission, I am reprinting this post from Online classes.org.
15 TED Talks to Help You Find Happiness
Everyone finds happiness in something. Whether it be the exhilaration that swoops in after the completion of a new creation, or enjoying the cool air of a sunny autumn day or learning anything and everything about the world, even those who struggle with their moods still occasionally enjoy the concepts of joy and satisfaction. Though nobody’s journey completely parrots that of others, this eclectic selection of TED Talks showcases how nearly all people work towards one almost universal goal.
1. Stefan Sagmeister: The power of time off: Everyone knows the value of rest and respite — it recharges the mind, body and spirit and maximizes productivity. For designer Stefan Sagmeister, closing down his studio for a year and spending the time traveling and conceptualizing actively stimulates his creativity. Without it, he says, he never could have produced some of his favorite works. This TED Talk showcases some of the different projects he conceived while on sabbatical, and discusses how to make the most of scheduled downtime.
2. Philip Zimbardo prescribes a healthy take on time: Renowned Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo delves deeply into how cognition and perception play a role in establishing happiness, comfort and stability. He cites the “time paradox” as one of the major stress factors in peoples’ lives, suggesting a shift in understanding how it works can alleviate a goodly chunk of the problem. Awareness of one’s mental and physical orientation in the past, present and future makes it much easier to set firm priorities and goals. Based on his research, Zimbardo outlines what he believes to be the healthiest, happiest, most productive strategy for time management.
3. Nic Marks: The Happy Planet Index: Although the old adage dictates that money rarely purchases happiness, nations still tend to rank their success more on economic productivity than the true satisfaction of its citizenry. The Happy Planet Index attempts to juxtapose resource consumption and overall personal contentment, and the most joyous locales on Earth are not necessarily what one would assume. Through complex statistics and painstaking research, Nic Marks challenges many of the common myths regarding the relationship between finances and emotions.
4. Srikumar Rao: Plug into your hard-wired happiness: Persistently questioning and pining away for possessions and affections remains one of the most common roadblocks to discovering happiness. Most people never seem to realize that sloughing off such a mindset significantly improves their outlook on events both major and minor. Fortunately, Dr. Srikumar Rao makes a compelling case that most (though not all) people are born with the capacity to forge their own individual sense of satisfaction — largely free of over-preoccupied thinking.
5. Paula Scher gets serious: For creative types especially, designer Paula Scher’s lecture perfectly sums up the oft-lauded joy to be found in the human imagination. In spite of the title, her “serious” work nevertheless resulted in a gratifying life, and she shares with viewers some of the projects that proved the most enjoyable. Though many compartmentalize their lives into “fun” and “career” designations, it is entirely possible to fuse the two together for the ultimate happiness experience.
6. Nancy Etkoff on the surprising science of happiness: While it’s relatively common knowledge that emotions directly impact human physiology, most popular discussions regarding happiness tend to focus more on the more abstract mental health components. Nancy Etkoff looks at the ever-elusive concept through the lens of cognitive science, exploring how the body conditions itself for negativity and oftentimes compromises its own satisfaction. Though despite biology and cognition’s hold, there are still a few things people can do to work around them.
7. Matthieu Ricard on the habits of happiness: Religion and spirituality are not necessarily everyone’s preferred route towards discovering happiness, though millions still find them an indispensible facet of their lives. Former biochemist Matthiew Ricard discovered his calling as a Buddhist monk, and the lecture pulls from this eclectic background to offer some personal thoughts on one can achieve personal satisfaction. He makes a case for clearer consciousness and self-awareness as the cornerstones of forging the best life possible.
8. Laura Trice suggests we all say thank you: Some days it seems as if the tenets of common courtesy have emulated elderly elephants and disappeared to perish in some secret, mysterious locale. This counselor earnestly believes that a simple resurgence in pleasantries such as “thank you” can make a massive difference in society as a whole. Both the speaker and the recipient walk away from those two seemingly small words feeling gratitude and harmony — feelings that can very easily carry on to others they encounter.
9. Stuart Brown says play is more than fun: It’s a thesis sure to satisfy pretty much everyone — taking time to relax and play around makes for one of the very best things anyone can do for his or her health and sanity. Juxtaposing animal behavior (including macaques and polar bears) with human habits, Stuart Brown illustrates how taking time to indulge the imagination opens up plenty of paths towards the ever-elusive happiness. Children especially benefit from such leisurely jaunts, as playing pretend games help strengthen the skills needed for success once the realities of adulthood descend.
10. Aimee Mullins: The opportunity of adversity: Aimee Mullins was born without shinbones, but in spite of this setback, she still managed to enjoy an eclectic, exciting life of sport and art. She cites the physical challenge as the single most motivating factor in her pursuit of modeling, activism, acting and participating in the Paralympics. Without it, she claims she never would have discovered such a profound satisfaction with her life — proving that sometimes the darkest moments result in the greatest personal triumphs.
11. Nick Bostrom on our biggest problems: Death, aging, “existential risk,” poor motivation and depression formulate the core of humanity’s greatest roadblocks towards happiness. Oxford’s Nick Bostrom finds hope and solace in transhumanist science and philosophy, explaining how many of the emerging technologies might very well reverse some of these serious ills. For viewers interested in amazing leaps in science and engineering, this lecture offers up plenty of intellectual questions to ponder.
12. Alex Tabarrok on how ideas trump crises: Plenty has been said about the role creativity, innovation and an active imagination help combat more negative emotions and mindsets. With the rise of a global economy and free markets, some believe that today’s economic climate — tempestuous as it is — actually provides some exhilarating challenges for those who derive enjoyment from such things. From a broader perspective, one can easily see how tragedies can slowly turn to victories with some hard work and even harder thinking.
13. Benjamin Wallace on the Price of Happiness: Many old proverbs and folktales warn against placing too much satisfaction in money and material goods, but that still doesn’t stop many people from trying. One particularly interesting study revealed that when the same wine first presented with an average price, then again with something higher, the latter garnered much more praise. Benjamin Wallace makes a compelling argument for pulling away from pursuing money and possessions as anything beyond means to caring for one’s needs.
14. His Holiness the Karmapa: The technology of the heart: For the more spiritually inclined, this lecture by one of Buddhism’s most revered clerics fuses religion and science in a manner that he claims maximizes happiness. No matter the myriad progresses made in the technical sector, he believes that true joy comes from peace of mind and body — though there exists plenty of pleasures to be found externally. And, of course, in forging loving and mindful connections with others.
15. Eve Ensler: Happiness in body and soul: Vagina Monologues scribe Eve Ensler found fulfillment in protecting women from abuse and marginalization. Both her writing and her activism brought happiness and peace to numerous victims, serving as an inspiration to those hoping to promote justice. She also believes that embracing one’s body and sexuality as something lovely rather than shameful will also help forge a positive personal pathway.