If something in you knows that life is meant to be enjoyed, these TED Talks on happiness will offer you scientific insights to support your ability to enjoy life to the fullest.
“… Find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Last week I shared three of my favorite TED Talks about happiness. Those talks focused on happiness and success, our ability to manufacture happiness when we don’t get what we want, and the power of relationships. If you enjoyed any of the videos from last week, I think you’ll find something of interest in this week’s lineup.
The following three TED Talks on happiness focus on optimism, mindfulness, and what motivates us to do what we do. I’ve summarized the videos in written form, but there is no substitute for watching the videos for yourself. Trust me, these are worth the watch. One might just change the way you see things today.
3 TED Talks on Happiness
1. The optimism bias, with Talia Sharot
In this 18-minute video, neuroscientist Talia Sharot shares some interesting new research that suggests our brains are wired to look on the bright side, and she talks about the potential benefits and pitfalls of the “optimism bias.”
Some say the secret to happiness is low expectations. The logic goes something like this: If we don’t expect good things to happen, we won’t be disappointed when those things don’t happen. If we’re not disappointed when good things don’t happen, and we’re pleasantly surprised when they do, we will be happy.
Talia humors the audience with three reasons why that theory, though it may sound good, is not accurate.
- People with high expectations feel better, no matter what happens.
- Regardless of the outcome, the pure act of anticipation makes us happy.
- Optimism is not only related to success, it leads to success, and it also enhances our well-being.
She continues on to explain some benefits of the optimism bias, as well as the pitfalls of unrealistic, or extreme, optimism.
2. Want to be happier? Stay in the moment, with Matt Killingsworth
In this 10-minute video, researcher Matt Killingsworth discusses the incredible findings of an app he built called Track Your Happiness, which lets people all over the world report their moment-to-moment happiness and experiences in daily life.
The ultimate aim of Matt’s app is to uncover important causes of happiness, and to gain a more concrete scientific understanding of happiness, so that we can create a future that’s richer, healthier, and happier.
So, when are we happiest? So far, the research shows that we’re often happiest when we’re “lost” in the moment.
The ability to focus our attention on something other than the present is an amazing gift, but it turns out that people are substantially less happy when their minds are wandering than when they’re not, no matter what they’re doing and no matter what they’re thinking about.
This is an incredible finding for two main reasons:
- No matter what we’re doing, we’re happier when we’re in the moment. Even if we’re engaged in an activity we don’t particularly enjoy (like commuting to work), we’re substantially happier when we’re focused only on that activity than when our mind strays from the present moment.
- No matter what we’re thinking about, we’re happier when we’re in the moment. When we’re thinking about unpleasant things, we’re much less happy (naturally). When we’re thinking about something neutral, we’re still considerably less happy. Even when we’re thinking about something pleasant, we’re just slightly less happy than when we’re not mind-wandering.
Is mind-wandering the cause or the effect of unhappiness? Matt explains a strong relationship between mind-wandering now and being unhappy a short time later (an no relationship between being unhappy now and mind-wandering a short time later). It seems likely that mind-wandering is a cause, and not merely a consequence, of unhappiness.
My takeaway: My presence is my power to enjoy life to the fullest.
3. Why we do what we do, with Tony Robbins
In this 21-minute talk, revered life coach and expert in leadership psychology Tony Robbins talks not just about the science of achievement, but the art of fulfillment. The main question is this: What changes the quality of our lives?
The quality of our lives has a lot to do with two factors: appreciation and contribution. Tony expresses that “you can only feel so much by yourself.” When we’re creative enough, playful enough, passionate enough, and caring enough, we can get through to people and make a difference in the world.
He also talks about six human needs: certainty, uncertainty, significance, connection and love, growth, and giving. “The reason we grow… is so we have something to give of value,” he says, and “decision shapes destiny.”
Every decision we make molds the quality of life we experience now and in the future; it determines our level of growth and our capacity to give.
Tony’s inspiring talk leaves the audience with two key takeaways: Focus on what you can give, because that’s what’s going to fill you up, and focus on how you can appreciate other people—not just intellectually, but really get into the feeling state of gratitude.
Our contribution creates appreciation, and our appreciation inspires us to give.
- Have you listened to any of these TED Talks?
- What were some of your main takeaways from these videos?
- When it comes to your genuine, long-term happiness and fulfillment in life, what have you learned works, and what doesn’t work?
Please share your thoughts, favorite TED Talks on happiness, helpful insights on happiness that you’ve gained, lessons learned along the way, and any stories with me in the comments.
Share these TED Talks on happiness with someone who might appreciate their messages.
Keep learning, stay positive, keep growing, stay mindful, keep giving, and appreciate the ride.