Top 3 TED Talks on Happiness

Every once in a while, we all need a boost to our mood, especially during stressful times. I’ve recently been turning to TED Talks for inspiration as the website has thousands of talks on a variety of subjects. I was interested in finding talks on happiness and positivity and these are just a few that I recommend.

1. The Surprising Science of Happiness

Dan Gilbert, the author of Stumbling on Happiness, expertly challenges the popular belief that we will only be happy once we attain what we want, in this TED talk. There is a common perception in society that once we will finally be happy after we reach our personal goals.

Gilbert argues against this idea by discussing the difference between “synthetic happiness” and “natural happiness.” According to Gilbert, while natural happiness is what occurs when we get what we want, synthetic happiness is what occurs when we get something else.

As a society, we tend to believe that natural happiness is real happiness, but Gilbert argues against this, claiming that oftentimes we will be just as happy even if we don’t get what we wanted. Gilbert ultimately shows that happiness can be achieved through multiple routes, even if the outcome is not what you initially hoped for.

2. The Happy Secret to Better Work

In this witty and fast-paced TED Talk, Shawn Achor discusses why society has approached the formula for happiness the wrong way. The author of The Happiness Advantage uses personal anecdotes and experimental studies to explain that we need to reverse the formula. 

He explains that the majority of our happiness is based on our internal world rather than our external world, meaning that our happiness is based on how we perceive our lives. While many individuals believe that we must first work hard to be successful in order to be happy, Achor denounces this misconception by providing evidence that people’s career successes can be predicted by their happiness levels. 

Achor explains that for many of us, happiness is on the opposite side of success, which is not a sustainable outlook because our brains automatically keep changing how we define success. If we continually expect that our happiness will come from our success and we keep elevating our definition of success, we will, in turn, never reach happiness. 

He urges his audience to elevate their positivity levels in the present, which he refers to as “the happiness advantage.” By being content and grateful in our present state, our brain, productivity, and energy levels improve, leading to better chances of success.

3. The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage

This TED Talk differs from the previous two in that it does  not solely revolve around happiness, but rather, questions the pressure people face to be happy all the time. Psychologist and author Susan David discusses the importance of “emotional agility,” and not feeling pressured to always be positive, in our everyday life.

David challenges the conventional belief that emotions are either “good” or “bad.” She shares an emotional tragedy in her childhood and explains how that moment showed her that denying her feelings was not the best way to cope.

She explains that many of us judge ourselves for having “negative” emotions and, in turn, don’t allow ourselves to feel those emotions. However, by feigning happiness and pushing those raw emotions aside, they only become stronger. 

David claims that succumbing to false positivity will not make us truly happy as it is primarily used as a front, so others believe we’re strong when ultimately, it is not healthy for our emotional well-being. She urges audience members to embrace all emotions that come in order to continually strengthen our emotional agility and become the best version of ourselves.


During hectic times, it can be easy to feel bombarded by the negativity surrounding us, but resources such as TED Talks help remind us of the importance of finding positivity in life. These TED Talks do not attempt to dismiss your emotions, but rather give new perspectives on how these feelings can help you in the long run.


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