9 Awesome TED Talks If You're Having a Crappy Day

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Shit happens. Bad things happen to good people. Into every life, a little rain must fall. Everything that can go wrong will. Remember Murphy’s Law.

But you know what? Murphy was a pessimistic asshole. Sure, bad things happen from time to time, but to resolve yourself to a life of it is, quite frankly, giving up. Why even bother getting out of bed each morning? No one said life was going to be perfect or easy, so accept and deal with it like the big boy or girl you are. OK? OK.

We all have crappy days. We feel exhausted, or drained, or stressed, or unfulfilled, or incapable, or befuddled (I simply love this word and want to see it brought back into the everyday vernacular), or unappreciated, or a multitude of other crappy things and feelings. But it shouldn’t be every day, and there are things you can do to combat it.

For starters, you need the bad times to truly appreciate the good ones. Revel in them. Pause and soak them in to use the next time you’re feeling down or blue. Create a “good times reservoir” for your next drought.

Next, you can learn from your mistakes and miscues. What did you do wrong that you can fix next time? What could have been done differently or better?

And finally, remember that this too shall pass. No feeling – positive or negative – lasts forever. No matter how crappy today is, tomorrow starts with a clean slate. A fresh start. A system reboot.

Take control when you’re feeling crappy. Sing along to your favourite song, loud and proud, and regardless of whether you can actually sing or not. Pet an animal. Go outside. Watch a funny video. There are many little life hacks to turn around a bad day. Use them.

And, of course, there’s TED. TED provides over 2,000 funny, inspirational, thought-provoking, motivational, intriguing, and powerful videos to stir your curiosity and centre your mind. Founded in 1984 as a technology, entertainment, and design conference, it has since conquered the world. Browse the videos by keyword to find something virtually tailor-made for you and your situation… whatever that currently is.

Or, if you lack the ability to do that (it’s a really, really, really bad day), you could just check out these nine awesome TED talks for when you’re having a crappy day. You’re welcome.

1. What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work? (Dan Ariely)

Dan Ariely is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics, two big fancy job titles that mean you should listen to him. He knows of what he speaketh. This 20-minute talk looks at our relationship with our work, and what motivates us to do it. Is it just money? Love? Something else? Ariely breaks it down for us, determining that we need both a sense of purpose and the feeling that we are making progress in our work. But what exactly does that mean, and how do we get it? Ariely demonstrates with two unusual experiments using, of all things, LEGO.

The key takeaway? Identifying and understanding what motivates us to work can help you through those times when you feel like you just can’t.

2. The Power of Vulnerability (Brené Brown)

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston. She’s primarily interested in vulnerability, shame, authenticity, and courage. This 20-minute talk is one of the most watched on TED, with nearly 22 million views. With a number like that, you know it must resonate with people on a visceral level.

We all feel vulnerable at times. Some of us may feel vulnerable all the time. And most of us have been brought up to believe that it’s a bad thing, something to be hidden, and denied. But Brown disagrees.

Vulnerability is not something to be feared. Embrace it.

3. The Hidden Power of Smiling (Ron Gutman)

Ron Gutman is an entrepreneur and CEO of HealthTap, which provides health info through online and mobile apps. His 7.5-minute talk explores the power of a simple smile. For ourselves, and for those that see our smile. Smiles are contagious. They’re uplifting. They can even be used as predictors of lifespan. And we actually place more value on them than a lot of material things.

When you’re feeling down, blue, sad, or just plain crappy, a smile just may be your map out of it.

The key takeaway? Smile. And then smile some more.

4. How to Make Stress Your Friend (Kelly McGonigal)

A health psychologist by trade, Kelly McGonigal is a sought-after and respected speaker in what many have been dubbed “science-help”. She is currently researching stress and our relationship to it, and this 14.5-minute talk presents her unexpected findings.

In her own words: "The old understanding of stress as a unhelpful relic of our animal instincts is being replaced by the understanding that stress actually makes us socially smart – it’s what allows us to be fully human".

Stress happens, but how you react to it can be the difference between its negative and positive effect. It’s just not necessarily a bad thing.

5. All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes (Andy Puddicombe)

We hear about mindfulness all the time lately: You must be mindful. Remember to be mindful. Be mindful of mindfulness. A mindful pause in your day can take you from crappy to happy. It sounds good, albeit overwhelming.

Enter Andy Puddicombe, a mindfulness expert, author, and speaker. This TED talk comes in at just under 10 minutes and offers a simple roadmap for finding mindfulness in your everyday existence. Isn’t it worth the time? Says Puddicombe: “In fact, we spend more time looking after our cars, our clothes and our hair than [our minds]”.

Essentially, it takes just 10 minutes per day to find balance, peace, and contentment.

6. On Being Wrong (Kathryn Schulz)

One of the biggest fears we have as humans is being wrong, of looking foolish in front of people (strangers, friends, and colleagues… everyone, in fact). It keeps us from achieving our true potential.

Kathryn Schulz, writer for The New Yorker and a self-described “Wrongologist”, wants to correct this. Her 18-minute talk will convince you to embrace your inner idiot and not only accept but embrace your mistakes. You’re not perfect… and that’s okay.

Don’t ever be afraid of being wrong.

7. How to Feel Like the Incredible Hulk (Tim Ferriss)

We all need to learn all the time. New job skills, new technology, new industries, new interests, and new hobbies. But many of us resist, believing that we can’t learn.

If you’ve heard of one speaker on this list, it’s probably Tim Ferriss. He’s a best-selling author (The 4-Hour WorkweekThe 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef), human guinea pig, and productivity expert. Clocking in at about 16.5 minutes, Ferriss provides examples and anecdotes from his own life about learning something – anything – new. Asking "What’s the worst that could happen?” is his guiding credo. Ask yourself that, and virtually anything becomes possible, because you see that the “worst thing” is not really that bad.

8. Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. (Louie Schwartzberg)

This one is just stunning. Beautiful. Magical.

Filmmaker, cinematographer, and producer Louie Schwartzberg has been taking time-lapse videos of nature and our world in all its glory for decades. Soak in this 9.5 minutes of the beauty that surrounds us but is all-too-often missed or actively ignored, set against the words of a Benedictine monk. It’s a gentle and dazzling reminder, and a great reset for even the crappiest of days.

The key takeaway? The world is a miracle. You are a miracle.

9. The Surprising Science of Happiness (Dan Gilbert)

What is happiness? What makes us happy? Psychologist and happiness expert Dan Gilbert believes that you’re wrong about those things, and he has the evidence and research to back up that claim. He says our brains are bad at understanding happiness and are notoriously bad at predicting what will make us happy. He offers up a fascinating 21-minute talk on all things happiness.

If you want to be happier, you need to get happiness. You need to understand the psychology of it.

The key takeaway? Happiness can be synthesized. The power is within us.

Crappy days happen. Take steps to fight them. Actively, and armed with knowledge to tackle them the right way. TED talks can help.

Any other videos that you habitually turn to on those craptacular afternoons? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below.