4 Lessons From TED Talks on How to Find Inner Calm and Happiness
Want a happier life? Stop rushing through it.
How much time do you intend to spend reading this post? A couple of minutes? A few seconds? The problem with our modern lives is that we're always pushing so hard to get our work done, visit that exciting new place, and connect with our many friends in social media and real life that we're in too much of a hurry to enjoy our own lives. Research shows that we actually work fewer hours on average than people did 50 years ago. And yet, we've never felt so rushed.
Something's wrong with this picture. To be effective at our jobs, with our friends, and in our families, we need to slow down and take the time to appreciate the world around us and our own lives. That's the life-saving message in a playlist of TED Talks about how to slow down by artists, monks, and journalists, including the incomparable Pico Iyer.
Take a little time yourself to slow down and watch a few of these thought-provoking talks. If you spend your life in a constant state of hurrying from one thing to another, you'll be really glad you did. Here's what some of these speakers have to say.
1. To enjoy a fast-moving life, you also have to sit still.
No one knows more about zooming from place to place than travel writer Pico Iyer. Yet in his talk, "The Art of Stillness," Iyer delves into one of his favorite topics-the importance of taking some time off-a few minutes a day, or a few days a year, or a few years in a lifetime-to sit still and stay quiet if only so that you can properly absorb, process, and appreciate all the sights and sounds and lessons of your hectic life.
"One of the first things you learn when you travel is that nowhere is magical unless you can bring the right eyes to it," Iyer says. "You take an angry man to the Himalayas, he just starts complaining about the food." Sitting still, he says, is the best way he's found to give himself the right eyes.
And so now, Iyer tries to take three days off several times a year to go on retreat. "A part of me still feels guilty to be leaving my poor wife behind and to be ignoring all those seemingly urgent emails from my bosses and maybe missing a friend's birthday party," he says. "But as soon as I get to a place of real quiet, I realize it's only by going there that I'll have anything fresh or creative or joyful to share with my wife or bosses or friends."
2. Sometimes you have to slow down.
"We used to dial; now we speed dial," slowness author Carl Honore says in this thoughtful talk. "We used to read; now we speed read. We used to walk; now we speed walk. And of course, we used to date and now we speed date." One magazine cover even promised to teach how to bring your partner to orgasm within 30 seconds.
All this unrelenting speed is good neither for our health, nor our society, nor our families, Honore explains. He realized this for himself when he found himself speed reading through a bedtime story to his small son. Since then, he's gotten in touch with his "inner tortoise," and become a slowness evangelist. The result, he says, is that he's happier, healthier and-perhaps surprisingly-more productive than ever.
Not only that, both father and son are enjoying bedtime stories much more now.
3. Spend 10 minutes in the present moment.
It's tough to do, and most of us have to think back a long ways to remember a time when we did absolutely nothing for ten whole minutes. That's too bad, says mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe in his talk. He spent years as a monk in the Himalayas. He learned "a greater appreciation and understanding for the present moment," he says. "By that I mean not being lost in thought, not being distracted, not being overwhelmed by difficult emotions, but instead learning how to be in the here and now, how to be mindful, how to be present."
You don't have to be a monk or sit in uncomfortable positions to start learning this for yourself, he adds. Begin with just 10 minutes a day.
4. Take a few minutes to watch an amazing performance.
In the spirit of slowing down, take a few minutes out of your overloaded day to watch artist Miwa Metreyek create a combination shadow and video performance to tell a meditative story about life, creation, and growth. And if you figure out how she created some of those layered effects, can you tell me?