Happiness is an elusive thing. At the end of the day, it's what we seek — more than money, fame or achievements. And we usually hope — or expect — that money, power or prestige will help us be happy. Yet studies show that money does not buy happiness, and neither do celebrity status, a wall full of trophies or a much sought-after promotion.
So how do we find happiness? That's the question all of us ask but few can answer. But don't let happiness slip between your fingers. Watch these inspirational TED talks, which will set you on a path to finding your happiness, one tiny moment at a time.
Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness
Dan Gilbert, author of "Stumbling on Happiness" and professor of psychology at Harvard University, argues in this TED talk that happiness is all in our heads. Well, more specifically, he argues that a lack of imagination is what's keeping us from experiencing happiness. He says we could all be just as happy with one outcome of our lives as we could with another, and that we just need to adjust our mindset — our "psychological immune system" — to help us feel truly happy, even when things don’t go as planned. In other words, happiness is right there in front of us; the trick is discovering when you're ready to accept it.
Matthieu Ricard: The habits of happiness
Along the lines of Gilbert's talk, this message from French writer and Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard reminds us that happiness can only come from within. As he notes, you can have the most amazing penthouse suite with the most beautiful view of the world, but if you're not happy inside, all you'll see when you look at your luxurious condo is a place from which to jump. Ricard challenges us to look at our emotions to heal ourselves of negative thoughts and cultivate happiness.
Robert Waldinger: What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness
Every generation, a fresh batch of young adults embarks on lives they hope will be filled with money and fame. And every generation, a seasoned batch of seniors spends their golden years evaluating their lives and realizing that money and fame played absolutely no part in the measure by which their lives were successful. In this talk, Harvard researcher Robert Waldinger expands on a 75-year study that unequivocally spells out what makes a good life. (Spoiler: It's all about the relationships we form and cultivate.)
Maysoon Zayid: 'I got 99 problems, and palsy is just one'
Maysoon Zayid is an Arab-American Muslim disabled woman from New Jersey. As she says in her talk — she's got 99 problems and her cerebral palsy is just one of them. If anyone deserves to have a pity party for herself, you might think it would be Zayid, who was was accidentally suffocated during her birth and developed cerebral palsy as a result. But Zayid defies that logic, but she doesn't aspire to be the poster child of inspiration, either. Instead her hilarious — yes, it's hilarious — talk reminds us that our problems are only as big and limiting as we allow them to be. As Zayid says, "If I can-can. You can-can."
Michael Norton: How to buy happiness
We hear it all of the time: Money can't buy happiness. But social scientist Michael Norton argues that we most certainly can. We just need to know what to spend it on, and it's not that new pair of shoes. Here's how to get happy by spending our money for the greater good.
Dan Ariely: What makes us feel good about our work?
Want to find happiness on the job? Behavioral economist Dan Ariely shares what makes us happier and more productive at work, and surprisingly it's not money. Ariely describes two eye-opening experiments that show us that employees are more productive when they're happy — and also happier when they're more productive.
Carl Honoré: In praise of slowness
How many of you try to squeeze every drop out of every day by cramming more and more into each moment? More work. More adventure. More volunteering. More family time. If you slog through every day just trying to check off items on your list, maybe it's time you learned how to slow down and do less. You may even find that doing so will help make each moment mean so much more. Journalist Carl Honoré walks us through the pitfalls of speed and how learning to live slowly helps us find the happiness we seek.