6 Inspiring TED Talks About Happiness and Belief

by Christine DeSadeleer Mar 3, 2010

Rev. James Forbes gives his TED talk / Feature photo: TED

Here is a collection of some of the most moving TED talks when it comes to happiness, health, and spirit.

It’s pretty hard not to be inspired to change the world, and your life, after watching a few minutes of a TED talk. If you haven’t seen one before, get ready to be moved.

Here are six videos to springboard you into some serious inner travel:

Carl Honore praises slowness

We live in a fast-paced world that gets faster every single day. There was bound to eventually be a movement to counter-balance this approach, and so the Slow Movement was born. Journalist Carl Honore, well-known advocate for the Slow Movement, discusses what it means for our health and happiness to live in a culture where faster is always better:

In other cultures, time is cyclical, it’s seen as moving in great, unhurried circles, it’s always renewing and refreshing itself, where as in the West, time is linear, it’s a finite resource. It’s always draining away, you either use it or lose it…I think what that does to us psychologically is it creates an equation: time is scarce, so what do we do? Well, we speed up, don’t we? We try and do more and more with less and less time, we turn every moment of every day into a race to the finish line, a finish line incidentally that we never reach…

Matthieu Ricard on the habits of happiness

A happy French man? It is possible, as Biochemist turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard shows us. Sometimes called the “happiest man in the world,” Ricard says that despite what “French intellectuals say, no one wakes up in the morning thinking ‘may I suffer the whole day?’ which means that somehow, consciously or not, directly or indirectly, in the short or the long-term, whatever we do, whatever we hope, whatever we dream, somehow is related to a deep profound desire for well-being or happiness.” Even with all of the other emotions present, such as jealousy, fear, and anger, we still have the ability to train our minds toward happiness.

For more on the science of happiness, check out Nancy Etcoff’s speech.

Julia Sweeney on Letting Go of God

Sometimes, it takes hearing the wacky creation story of another faith to sit back and question the one of our own belief system. In this talk, Julia Sweeney, best known for her run on Saturday Night Live, talks about a house visit from two Mormon boys, and how their explanation of God – and the supposed evilness of Native-Americans – made her contemplate her Christian faith.

Wade Davis on the worldwide web of belief and ritual

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis reminds us how we are all connected, are all of an animal nature, and most importantly, that we are “all cut from the same genetic cloth.” In the West, we think of technology as the great achievement of our intellect, while in other parts of the world, genius stems from the unraveling of the myths of life:

All peoples are simply cultural options, different visions of life itself.

Watch the beautiful pictures that Davis has taken of people all over the world, as he explains how different spiritual practices hold the Earth in balance.

David Hoffman on losing everything

What happens when you lose it all, literally? Nine days before giving this speech at TED, filmmaker David Hoffman lost 40 years of his life’s work in a fire that burned down his house and office. Camera lenses from shooting a Bob Dylan film, the only print of his feature film King Murray, and a letter from his father telling him to marry his first wife were gone in an instant. He asks the question:

I looked at it. I just didn’t know what to do. Was I my things?

At one point or another in life, we all must face loss. Hoffman decides he’s going to make something good out of his; how will you approach yours?

Rev. James Forbes: Compassion at the dinner table

Where does compassion begin? How do we cultivate it in everyday life? Rev. James Forbes tells the story of practicing rituals at the dinner table and learning that sharing with others brings love to all. Growing up, it was important that all the children of the family were present at the table, for the metaphor of all-inclusive meant “we have been faithful in caring and sharing, we had the sense that justice and peace would have a chance in the world.” The overall message in Forbes’ piece is one that moves us all in a compassionate way throughout life:

When one is honored, all are honored.

Thanks to Julie Schwietert for pulling this inspirational list together.

Community Connection

TED talks inspire on many different levels, including protection for the environment. Check out 6 Inspiring TED Talks About the Environment over at Matador Change.

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