The Absolutely 10 Best Happiness Talks By World-Class Experts

— Compiled, written, and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Let the world’s best happiness talks reveal why happiness is more than feeling cheerful in the moment.

Several factors determine our happiness:

  • Personality traits, which stay more or less stable throughout life, also play a role in happiness.
  • Happiness is also influenced by our psychological flexibility, grit, altruism, values, and strengths.
  • Some people are naturally happy, as genetics contributes to 45%-60% of our happiness (see the happiness formula).

At the same time, happiness is good for many aspects of life. Studies show the many benefits of happiness:

  • Happier people tend to live longer lives (Lawrence, 2015).
  • Happiness majorly influences workplace productivity (Oswald & Proto, 2015).
  • Happy people fall ill less and recover faster when they do fall ill (Veenhoven, 2007).
  • Happier people are also better at coping with stress and bouncing back from adversities. 

Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work

Shawn Achor, a renowned expert on happiness and human potential, flips the script on the conventional wisdom that hard work leads to happiness.

In his compelling TED talk, “The Happy Secret to Better Work,” Achor argues that it’s actually happiness that fuels productivity and success, not the other way around.

Achor presents research-backed insights to support his claim, urging us to reevaluate our approach to success and happiness. He suggests that by prioritizing happiness, we can become not only more content but also more efficient and effective in our work.

This talk is a must-watch for anyone looking to optimize their professional life without sacrificing personal well-being.

Achor’s point, that happiness is a precursor to success, makes us see it as a useful framework to improve performance and satisfaction in our jobs as well as in life.

The happy secret to better work | Shawn Achor

Dan Gilbert: The Surprising Science of Happiness

Dan Gilbert, a Harvard psychology professor, takes us on a fascinating journey into the human mind with his TED talk, “The Surprising Science of Happiness.”

He introduces us to the concept of the “psychological immune system,” a mental mechanism that helps us adapt to life’s curveballs and find happiness even when circumstances are less than ideal.

Gilbert challenges the notion that happiness is solely the result of external factors, like success or wealth. Instead, he argues that our ability to adapt and find contentment in unexpected situations is a key component of our well-being.

This talk is a compelling dive into the resilience of the human spirit and our innate capacity for joy. It offers valuable insights for anyone interested in understanding the complex interplay between external circumstances and internal happiness.

Gilbert assures us that strengthening our psychological immune system can help us better navigate life’s ups and downs and find sustainable happiness.

The surprising science of happiness | Dan Gilbert

Matthieu Ricard: The Habits of Happiness

Matthieu Ricard, often dubbed the “happiest man in the world,” is a Buddhist monk and author who brings a unique blend of scientific and spiritual perspectives to the subject of happiness.

In his enlightening TED talk, “The Habits of Happiness,” Ricard shares the practices and mindsets that have been proven to cultivate a joyful life.

Drawing on his own experiences and scientific studies, Ricard argues that happiness is not just a fleeting emotion but a skill that can be developed through intentional practices like mindfulness and compassion.

He emphasizes that happiness is an internal state of well-being that can be nurtured regardless of external circumstances.

This talk is a treasure trove of wisdom for anyone looking to understand the true nature of happiness and how to achieve it. Ricard’s insights give us a roadmap for cultivating a life filled with genuine contentment and joy.

The habits of happiness | Matthieu Ricard

Robert Waldinger: What Makes a Good Life

Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School, captivates audiences with his talk on “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness.”

Waldinger serves as the current director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a groundbreaking research project that has been tracking the lives of 724 men for over 75 years.

In his talk, Waldinger reveals that the key to happiness and life satisfaction lies not in wealth or fame, but in the quality of our relationships.

He clearly tells us that strong social connections are not only linked to happier lives but also better health and longer lifespans.

Waldinger’s presentation is a compelling reminder of what truly matters in life. His insights are based on rigorous, long-term research, making them all the more impactful. This talk is a must-watch for anyone interested in understanding the fundamental components of a fulfilling, happy life.

Waldinger is also a Zen priest and sensei. His TED talk has amassed over 40 million views, making it the fastest-spreading talk in the history of TEDx events.

Robert Waldinger: What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness | TED

Sonja Lyubomirsky: The How of Happiness

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a distinguished researcher in the field of psychology, challenges the traditional notions about happiness in her insightful TED talk, “The How of Happiness.”

She convincingly argues that happiness isn’t a byproduct of circumstances but can be actively cultivated through changes in behavior and thought patterns.

Lyubomirsky backs her claims with rigorous research, offering practical strategies to improve one’s well-being. She emphasizes that by consciously altering our actions and thoughts, we can significantly enhance our happiness levels.

This talk is essential viewing for anyone interested in taking proactive steps to improve their happiness and overall quality of life. Lyubomirsky’s research-based approach provides a concrete roadmap for those seeking to elevate their emotional well-being.

The How of Happiness with Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, at Happiness and Its Causes 2016

Abigail Marsh: Why Are Some People More Altruistic

Abigail Marsh, a professor at Georgetown University, specializes in Psychology and Neuroscience. She’s a recipient of the Cozzarelli Prize, a prestigious award recognizing scientific excellence and originality.

Marsh earned her Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University in 2004 and has since focused her research on empathy and altruism.

Her curiosity about human behavior stems from questions like: How do we comprehend the thoughts and feelings of others? What motivates us to help or refrain from harming others?

A life-altering incident 20 years ago ignited her interest in altruism. Marsh recalls:

“That night, I was 19 years old and driving back to my home in Tacoma, Washington, down the Interstate 5 freeway, when a little dog darted out in front of my car. And I did … swerve to avoid it. I hit the dog anyways, and that sent the car into a fishtail, and then a spin across the freeway, until finally it wound up in the fast lane of the freeway faced backwards into oncoming traffic and then the engine died. And I was sure in that moment that I was about to die too.”

In that serious moment, a stranger risked his life, dashing across four lanes of freeway traffic to rescue her.

This act of selfless bravery inspired Marsh to dedicate her career to understanding the psychological roots of such altruistic behavior.

Adam Grant: Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers

Adam Grant, an expert in management and psychology, explores the habits of original thinkers and how their unique approaches to life contribute to their own happiness and well-being.

Holding the title of the highest-rated professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for five consecutive years, Grant has also penned two best-selling books by the age of 35: “Give And Take” and “Originals.”

In his insightful TED talk from February 2016, Grant delves into the characteristics that set apart original, nonconformist thinkers. He identifies three key traits:

  1. Original thinkers are quick to initiate but take their time to complete projects, embodying what he describes as “moderate procrastination.”
  2. While they experience doubt like anyone else, they manage it differently. Instead of doubting themselves, they focus on refining and improving their ideas.
  3. According to Grant, the most successful original thinkers are those who aren’t afraid to fail. In fact, they fail more often than others simply because they try more often, iterating and learning from each attempt.

Grant says original thinkers can both innovate and be happier through authentic self-expression and resilience.

Angela Duckworth: The Power of Passion And Perseverance

A psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Angela Duckworth quickly gained attention with her book “GRIT,” which hit #2 on the New York Times bestsellers list within just two weeks.

Duckworth challenges the common belief that innate talent is the main driver of success. She argues that “grit,” a blend of passion and perseverance, is a more reliable predictor of achievement and frequently overshadows talent.

Duckworth offers several strategies to cultivate grit and increase resilience against life’s challenges, thereby contributing to happiness:

  1. Foster a deep interest in your goals, making the journey toward them more enjoyable and fulfilling.
  2. Engage in daily practice to improve your skills, adding a sense of accomplishment to your life.
  3. Keep a larger purpose or meaning in mind, serving as a source of inspiration and happiness.
  4. Embrace the belief that abilities can be improved through dedication and hard work.

Grit can not only help us meet our long-term objectives but also find greater satisfaction and happiness in life.

Here’s Angela Duckworth exploring the psychology of success and its connection to overall happiness in her impactful talk on “The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”

The strongest predictor for success | Angela Lee Duckworth

Steven Hayes: How Love Turns Pain Into Purpose

Steven Hayes, a renowned psychologist with over 500 scientific articles to his name, is best known for his transformative book “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life.”

His work has been praised by experts like Professor Zindel V. Segal, who calls it the “quintessential workbook on acceptance and commitment therapy.”

In his emotionally charged TEDx talk at the University of Nevada, Hayes shifts the focus from scientific discourse to a deeply personal narrative. He shares his own struggle with debilitating panic attacks, offering the audience an intimate look at his journey toward healing.

What makes this talk relevant to the subject of happiness is its exploration of how love can transform pain into purpose. Hayes argues that embracing our vulnerabilities and struggles can lead to profound personal growth and, ultimately, a more fulfilling life.

He tells us of the choice he made that changed his life; a choice we all can make:

“I will not run from me.”

Hayes encourages us to confront our fears and challenges, not as obstacles to happiness, but as opportunities for meaningful change.

This perspective not only helps us overcome personal hurdles but also contributes to a deeper, more enduring sense of happiness.

Psychological flexibility: How love turns pain into purpose | Steven Hayes | TEDxUniversityofNevada

Brian Little: Who Are You, Really

Brian Little, a distinguished psychology professor at Cambridge University, has been named a “Favorite Professor” by Harvard’s graduating classes for three years in a row. He’s an expert in personality and personal motivation, and the author of the book “Me, Myself, and Us.”

In his engaging TED talk, Little delves into the nuances of personality traits, specifically focusing on the extrovert-introvert spectrum. He uses the Big Five, or OCEAN model, to discuss our five core personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

The talk is not just entertaining but also enlightening, offering a fresh perspective on how understanding our personality traits can lead to a happier, more fulfilling life.

Little’s insights help us understand others and ourselves, which can help us have better relationships and be happier.

Known for his wit and humor, Little keeps the audience entertained while imparting valuable insights. He shares amusing anecdotes, like the time he was trying to find solitude in a cubicle and was interrupted by … (listen to the talk to find out)

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√ Also Read: 10 Ways To Be Happy In Daily Life: Expert Tips From Science

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