Happiness is universally desired by humans. In general, happiness refers to people’s sense of wellness in their lives – in both thoughts and actions (Diener & Tay, 2017, p. 90).
Research studies have confirmed that “being happy” is beneficial on several accounts, from having a strong immune system (Cohen et al., 2003), to increasing an individual’s sociability (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005), to benefiting one’s workplace success (Proto & Sgroi, 2012).
However, attaining happiness can be a daunting life goal, if we understand it in certain ways.
“Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.”
TED (an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design) is a non-profit organization, devoted for spreading ideas in the form of short talks (known as TED Talks), which are intended to inspire the audience.
Below we list 13 TED Talks on happiness on YouTube. The list is not ranked but merely listed based on alphabetical order (last name) of the presenter. They are insightful and unique. Enjoy watching them.
Best TED Talks on Happiness
The Happiness Advantage – Shawn Achor
Shawn Achor is a strong proponent of positive psychology and author of several books related to happiness. In this talk, he links happiness with success (in terms of job/task performance), which is based on his book titled – The Happiness Advantage. More specifically, he expounds how positive brains can propel success at various levels.
My Philosophy for a Happy Life – Sam Berns
Sam Berns is a teenager who had a rare genetic disorder – progeria, which is extremely debilitating. In this talk, Sam focuses on his very happy life and his philosophy towards life. Despite his condition, he was hopeful and happy. This poignant talk was delivered a year before Sam’s death. A truly inspiring video, which will encourage us to face life obstacles and find happiness.
Flow, the Secret to Happiness – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a prominent positive psychologist, best known for his concept of flow. Flow refers to a state of intense mental concentration, which is a prerequisite for happiness. In this talk, which is extremely interesting, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi focuses on his life and career – investigating – what makes life worth living.
Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce – Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist and an author of several best-selling books related to non-fiction and social sciences. In this talk, he talks about Howard Mascovitz, an American psychophysicist, and a market researcher, who was assigned to find an optimal spaghetti sauce that people would like and make them happy.
Malcolm Gladwell, uses the [spaghetti sauce] case, as an analogy to humans’ pursuit of happiness, which has been presumed to be a universal path. However, the reality is different. In short, Malcolm Gladwell notes that embracing diversity is a sure path to happiness.
The Surprising Science of Happiness – Dan Gilbert
Dan Gilbert is a noted American social psychologist working at Harvard and author of the bestselling book – Stumbling on Happiness. In this talk, Dr. Gilbert discusses various research works (e.g., impact bias, free choice paradigm) conducted by psychologists and economists, among others. In short, this talk revolves on the concept of synthetic happiness – how humans construct their subjective sense of happiness.
Less Stuff, More Happiness – Graham Hill
Graham Hill is a writer and a designer by profession. He is also the founder of TreeHugger.com and LifeEdited. Graham Hill’s short talk revolves around the topic – how less is more? Making a case against materialism, he notes that living little is better for the individual, the society, and the planet. Do you believe possessions will make you happy? Think again.
The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory – Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel Prize winner, an economist, and a psychologist by profession, known for his work in judgment and decision-making. Dr. Kahneman’s talk focuses on happiness and cognition (especially, cognitive traps). How our selves are dichotomous in nature—the ‘experience’ self and the ‘remembering’ self that perceive happiness differently. What effect this dichotomy has for our self-awareness and more?
Hackschooling Makes Me Happy – Logan LaPlante
Logan LaPlante, a teenager gives an inspiring talk, which gives a kid’s perspective on happiness. Logan notes that the key to happiness is not what adults think they know. But, something entirely different – therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC), which today’s school education system doesn’t address. By the way, who are hackers? Do you know?
Where Joy Hides and How to Find It – Ingrid Fetell Lee
Ingrid Fetell Lee is a designer and author, who is also known for her blog: The Aesthetics of Joy. Her talk expounds on her quest to explore the concept of “joy,” which is different from happiness. She questions the aesthetics of our contemporary societies and how they can be morphed to cultivate joy in the world that surrounds us.
How to Buy Happiness – Michael Norton
Michael Norton is a Harvard professor, who researches the psychology of happiness, among other topics. At its core, his talk is about money and happiness. More specifically, ways to spend money that will make us happier. This interesting talk explains how money can buy happiness.
The Habits of Happiness – Matthieu Ricard
Matthieu Ricard is a French writer and Buddhist monk, who has published books on happiness (e.g., Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill). In this talk, he focuses on various topics, from a multitude of happiness definitions to spirituality, meditation, and neuroscience, all dotted with spectacular Himalayan photos.
The Pursuit of Happiness: There’s More to Life than Being Happy – Emily Esfahani Smith
Emily Esfahani Smith is a writer by profession, who writes about the human experience, drawing from diverse fields such as psychology, philosophy, and literature.
In this talk, she elucidates her personal account of her pursuit of life’s paramount goal – happiness. This pursuit led her to pursue a degree in positive psychology, which shepherded her to discover something more than happiness – the meaning of life. Dotted with her personal anecdotes, she notes the four pillars of meaning in life.
Want to be Happy? Be Grateful – David Steindl-Rast
David Steindl-Rast is a Catholic monk, who is known for his interfaith dialogue and works on the symbiotic relationship between science and spirituality. In this particular talk, he underscores the bond between happiness and gratitude. He makes it a point that happiness stems from gratitude.
More TED Talks on Happiness
Want more? Following are some TED Talks related to happiness.
Happiness and its Surprises – Nancy Etcoff
What Makes A Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness – Robert Waldinger
The Paradox of Choice – Barry Schwartz
Want to be Happier? Stay in the Moment – Matt Killingsworth
Older People are Happier – Laura Cartensen
Plug into Your Hard-Wired Happiness – Dr. Srikumar Rao
3 Ways that Good Design Makes You Happy – Don Norman
The Price of Happiness – Benjamin Wallace
The New Era of Positive Psychology – Martin Seligman
Happiness Matters – Tshering Tobgay
Bhutan: The Pursuit of Gross National Happiness – Silver Donald Cameron
Happiness is a universal human pursuit, which is critical to our lives. However, the research [and TED Talks] suggests that we are pursuing happiness via means (e.g., wealth, fame, beauty, etc.) that will only lead to UNhappiness.
Happiness transcends the tangibles. We hope the list of the best TED Talks will inspire you to pursue happiness in life, in ways that are bigger than life itself.
- Cohen, S., Doyle, W. J., Turner, R. B., Alper, C. M., & Skoner, D. P. (2003). Emotional style and susceptibility to the common cold. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 652-657.
- Diener, E., & Tay, L. (2017). A scientific review of the remarkable benefits of happiness for successful and healthy living. Happiness, 90-117.
- Lyubomirsky, S., King, L. A., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803-855.
- Oswald, A. J., Proto, E., & Sgroi, D. (2015). Happiness and productivity. Journal of Labor Economics, 33(4), 789-822.