Here are some of my favourite TED Talks that relate to mental wellbeing.
I recently reviewed Susan David’s book Emotional Agility, and this talk covered similar subject matter. She points out how problematic it is to avoid emotions that are considered negative or illegitimate. She says there is a “tyranny of positivity”, and “being positive has become a new form of moral correctness.” Preach, sister!
Emily Esfahani Smith: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy
As you may have guessed, I’m not a fan of the idea that we can and always should choose happiness, so not surprisingly I quite enjoyed this talk. Rather than happiness, the speaker focuses on how to live a meaningful life. She identifies four pillars that support a meaningful life: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling. This sounded a lot more like the kind of life I want to live.
Dan Gilbert: The Surprising Science of Happiness
In this talk, Dan Gilbert introduces us to the concepts of “natural happiness” and “synthetic happiness”. Natural happiness comes from getting what we want, while synthetic happiness is what our brains produce when we don’t get what we want. He shared some of his research on how we develop more favourable views of things we get and less favourable views about things we don’t get. This was even replicated among amnesiacs. I found this to be a really fascinating look at the subconscious workings of the mind.
Judson Brewer: A Simple Way To Break A Bad Habit
In this talk Judson Brewer looks at mindful awareness as a strategy for managing cravings. This can help engage the prefrontal cortex, which tends to go offline under stressful conditions. It also quiets down the posterior cingulate cortex, a part of the default mode network, which tends to be dysregulated in a number of conditions, including addictions and depression. He talks about engaging our inner scientist, which got my inner geek all very excited.
Tim Ferriss: Why Should You Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals
Tim Ferris lives with bipolar disorder, and has experienced a significant number of depressive episodes. After making the decision not to follow through on a suicide attempt, he began looking for a way to live his life better. He came across stoicism, which has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy. He refers to it as an “operating system for thriving in high-stress environments” that involves separating out what you can and can’t control, and then focusing intensively on the former. He describes an exercise he calls “fear-setting” that involves identifying potential worst case scenarios so you can consider them logically and overcome the fear that prevents you from taking action. It’s an interesting approach that he is clearly quite passionate about and that has helped him to manage his bipolar disorder.
The COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit page has a wide range of resources to support better mental health and wellbeing.