TED Talks on Mental Wellbeing

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Here are some of my favourite TED Talks that relate to mental wellbeing.

The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage

(Susan David)

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!

Also, you might be surprised to learn that have “dead people goals.”

There’s More to Life Than Being Happy

(Emily Esfahani Smith)

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.

The Surprising Science of Happiness

(Dan Gilbert)

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.

A Simple Way To Break A Bad Habit

(Judson Brewer)

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.

Why Should You Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals

(Tim Ferriss)

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.

Want more TED Talks suggestions? I’ve also done posts covering TED Talks on mental illness, stigma, trauma, depression, and suicide.

Mental health coping toolkit

The Coping Toolkit page has a broad collection of resources to support mental health and well-being.

7 thoughts on “TED Talks on Mental Wellbeing”

  1. This is a great selection. Thanks for sharing! I particularly enjoyed Tim Ferris’ and Dan Gilbert’s pieces. I have been doing a lot of reading, thinking about this as well and have recently started sharing the best books I came across over the past couple of years on my site: https://therapywithbooks.clinic/ . Would love your thoughts.

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