A Thanksgiving shout-out to everyone we take for granted — especially parents, unicorns, and baristas.
One Tuesday a month, we curate and share three short talks on a theme. This month, as we kick off the annual holiday season, we thought it appropriate to focus on gratitude.
To our delight and dismay, we found that there are hundreds of TED Talks on gratefulness and positive psychology. And, even more guides on the self-help shelf of your favorite book store. Do you ever wonder why the world thinks we need so many instruction manuals for something as simple as gratitude? You’re not alone.
A recent 17-country, 6-continent study published in the National Academy of Sciences confirms something that scientists have long speculated — we humans have a negativity bias. It seems we’re hard wired to focus on the bad news.
While that survival instinct may have served us well as a species during prehistoric times, it’s less helpful today in the 21st century. In fact, in this age of the 24-hour news cycle, it can be downright debilitating. It’s no wonder gratitude eludes us. Bad news is everywhere we look. What do we have to be thankful for?
Rather than appreciate the hundred little things that go right every day, we ruminate on the bad commute or the two-minute chance encounter with the angry resident. It happens on holidays too. Instead of savoring the vast chain of tiny miracles it takes to bring families and friends from near and far to a shared table, we obsess over the no-shows, the forgotten ingredient, or the inevitably overcooked side dish. Not this year.
We invite you to take a little TED break, or three. It’s our thank-you gift to you for clicking through and reading this far. The talks are super short, funny, and anything but negative. In fact, there’s a very good chance you’ll come away with a new appreciation for the power of unicorns. Happy Thanksgiving!
Watch: 365 days of “thank you” (8 mins)
On New Year’s Day 2012, college student Brian Doyle had a near-death experience that left him rattled. Eleven months later, on Thanksgiving Day, he conceived of and committed to an inspiring year-long project to thank one person a day — either on the phone or face-to-face. Find out where his gratefulness journey led him and what’s next.
Watch: The happy secret to better work (12 mins)
Shawn Achor, positive psychologist and CEO of Good Think, Inc, is on a mission to reverse the formula for happiness and success. In this hilarious TEDTalk from 2011, Achor posits that you can shape reality simply by changing your mindset. Citing his sister the unicorn as early evidence of his theory, he goes on to offer practical tips for how to train your brain. Not surprisingly, a sense of gratefulness figures prominently.
Watch: My journey to thank all the people responsible for my morning coffee (12 mins)
Author A.J. Jacobs invites you to join him for a virtual walk on “the gratitude trail.” He decided to pick one simple necessity in his life that he couldn’t live without and thank all the people who helped make it possible, in person. Don’t dismiss this as an extended version of a coffee commercial you’ve seen before. Jacobs takes you to unexpected places, and plants a seed of gratefulness you can’t help but nurture, harvest, savor, and repeat. Drink it in.