One thing we all have in common is the desire to be happy. Did you know that depression is the most common mental illness? According to the CDC, over 25% of the U.S. population suffers from depression. Regardless of whether a person has depression, everyone wants to experience positive emotions. Here are some insights given from Ted Talks on the subject of Happiness.

800px-5_year_anniversary_california_lottery_ticketsPsychologist and Author, Dan Gilbert, makes an interesting claim in his 2006 Ted Talk on The Surprising Science of Happiness. After one year, paraplegics and lotto winners are equally happy. Great news, everyone, we’re more resilient than we imagine ourselves to be. Dan Gilbert states with only a few exceptions, most life-impacts have little influence on a person after three-months. This echoes the phrase, “this too shall pass.”

We put greater emphasis on what we want and what we fear than we need to. Happiness is less about the destination and more about the journey.

In his Ted Talk, What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness, Robert Waldinger,  discussed one of the longest studies on adult life that has ever been done. The study lasted 75 years and included 724 more. Each year, the men were surveyed about different aspects of their lives. While many people hope for riches and fame, Waldinger says that what matters most is relationships.  It’s not about how many relationships we have, but the quality of those relationships.

Build a community of support with good quality relationships.

Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, reasons that we need to enter a state of flow. The Ted Talk: Flow a State of Happiness reveals that when a person is in flow, they are spontaneous, in-the-moment, and doing what they love. When we are so enveloped in what we are doing, that we forget about our body, our thoughts, and our location. Usually, people enter this state of flow when they are in a highly creative mode.

When fully absorbed in a task, you’ll be in a state of flow. Immerse yourself in things that put you in a state of flow.  When we’re in flow, we’re happier.

Professor Michael Norton challenges the idea that money can’t buy money in his Ted Talk, How to Buy Happiness. Michael argues that money can buy happiness, if it’s spent on the right things.  When we focus our spending on ourselves and buy things like mansions and champagne, having lots of money can isolate us from other people. In their study, people were given envelopes with money and instructions. Some were asked to spend money on themselves and others were asked to spend it on someone else. In the end, the only people who had a spike in happiness were those who spend the money on someone else.

Money can buy you happiness, if you’re spending it in a way that benefits other people.

Brother David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine monk who performed a Ted Talk called Want to be happy? Be grateful. The Brother claims that we all share the desire to be happy. He says that happiness does not make us grateful, instead being grateful makes us happy. People who have suffered terrible misfortunes and can still be happy, because they are grateful. In order to be grateful, monk David Steindl-Rast says we need to stop rushing through life, take our time, and notice what’s going on around us.

We have the opportunity to better the world by being grateful. A grateful world is a happy world.

Graham Hill is a journalist and founder of founder of TreeHugger.com and LifeEdited. He spends his time speaking to people about minimalism and spoke in a Ted Talk called Less stuff, more happiness. In the talk, he points out that our happiness levels have flat lined over the last fifty years. Americans have bigger houses, bigger debt, and a bigger environmental footprint. He claims the benefits to a smaller lifestyle includes an easier life, more money, and greater happiness. While not everyone wants to live in a tiny home, Graham Hill suggests we consider “editing” our lives down to what we need to be comfortable. While his talk isn’t as scientific as some others, it does echo that material items and spending money on ourselves doesn’t make us happier.

Having less stuff is freeing. Living a simpler life can bring us more happiness and it’s better for the environment.

Biochemist turned Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard, talks about The habits of happiness. People can have an abundance of material things and still be unhappy. There are also moments of pleasure, such as eating a chocolate cake, but once we eat too much our pleasure turns to disgust. We can also have the feelings of joy and even in a way that laughs at someone else’s misfortune, but that cannot be happiness either. In order to have happiness, the monk claims we need to transform our minds. As a result, we can change our inner conditions, allowing us to flourish. Meditation is a great tool we can use to change our mind.  Science has supported those who are proficient at meditating are able to control their emotional response.

We can train our mind to improve our internal conditions. Meditation helps us learn to transform our thoughts and control our emotions.

Smiling interested Ron Gutman, graduate of Stanford University, and entrepreneur. Ron looked at several research studies relating to smiling and facial expressions. One such study even suggested that a span of a person’s smile can predict their lifespan. It’s difficult for people to frown when they see another person smiling. Smiling signals mood-enhancing hormones in the body and reduces stress hormones. Not only can smiling make you feel good, it makes you look good. Those who smile appear more competent and likable.

If you want to feel good, reduce stress, and live a happier life: smile.

Putting the Ted Talk wisdom together, here is a list for habits that make us happy:
  1. Take time to enjoy life
  2. Have good relationships
  3. Be generous
  4. Be grateful
  5. Do what you love doing
  6. Live simply
  7. Smile

What happiness wisdom stands out to you? Share any other great advice you’ve heard. 

Check out the related article: Can you make your spouse healthier by being happy?

What would make you the happiest?