Before moving to Vancouver, I lived in Waterloo for almost 10 years. For those that don’t know, Waterloo is a medium-sized city about an hour west of Toronto. It’s a fairly wealthy, tech-driven place with plenty of parks, green spaces, and character. It’s home to two universities, a college, lots of families, and generally, Waterloo is just a really nice place. (With the exception of the winters, which get very, very cold and snowy. But aside from that, a great spot.) It was my home after having spent 5 years living in the Middle East.

Moving to Vancouver this past March, as I’ve said before, was a 4-year dream come true. I loved Waterloo, but Vancouver is amazing for so many other reasons. The mountains, the beaches, the seafood, and the lifestyle – I adore it all. It’s been a while since I lived in a big city, and one of the things I couldn’t help but notice upon arriving was the homeless. Don’t get me wrong – Toronto, just like any big city I’m sure, has a similar situation. It’s not that I hadn’t been exposed to it before, but seeing these people every day has definitely made me more aware that the problem exists.

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I’m not sure if people who know nothing but living in big cities eventually just stop noticing, but as terrible as this is going to sound, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable when passing a homeless person on the street. I think a lot of people do. Part of me gets a little scared, but the other part wants to help.

This weekend is Thanksgiving here in Canada, and having passed by a few homeless individuals in my travels, I was feeling especially grateful for all of the good things in my life that others aren’t as fortunate to have experienced. Wanting to translate that gratitude into action, I bundled up a bunch of food items in my kitchen that I knew someone else needed more than me. Depending on the route I take to work, I usually walk past the same person lying on the sidewalk. Sure enough, they were there yesterday to receive the bag I dropped off.

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In the spirit of Thanksgiving being about truly giving thanks and not just another food holiday, I’ve rounded up 8 great TED Talks about gratitude and happiness. Having a home is something I’ll never take for granted, but these videos also highlight finding gratitude in the little things. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did, and to all my Canadian readers, Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: If you’re reading this post in your inbox, or if you have trouble seeing the videos below, just click on the links to watch them.

Want to be happy? Be grateful | David Steindl-Rast

In this talk:

  • A simple method for being grateful for every moment: Stop, look, go.
  • If you are grateful, you act out of a sense of enough, not of a sense of scarcity. You’re less fearful, more joyful.
  • More grateful people enjoy the differences between people and are respectful towards everybody. It doesn’t necessarily mean equality in the world, but it does mean equal respect.
  • More joyful people make for a more joyful world.

365 Days of Thank You | Brian Doyle 

In this talk: A near-death experience led to Brian Doyle’s commitment one Thanksgiving to a goal of saying a genuine thank you to a different person in his life, every day for a year. He talks about what he learned and what happened along the way.

Gratitude, gifting and grandpa | John Styn 

In this talk:

  • Why you should focus on your cone, not your crap.
  • The fastest way to be rich is to be grateful for what you have.
  • The shortest route to getting happier is to do things for other people.

365 grateful project | Hailey Bartholomew 

In this talk: After having fallen into a period of depression, Hailey set out on a year-long photo project to document all the things she was grateful for. She noticed that her expectations of other people had stopped her from appreciating how great they really were. She learned that sometimes we don’t see how great life around us is because we’re not looking for it.

The epidemic of smiles and the science of gratitude | Jennifer Moss 

In this talk: Jennifer’s story about how ‘faking it until you make it’ – which in her case meant smiling and intensely focusing on the smallest wins during a difficult time in her family’s life – helped re-train her brain to find more gratitude in every day. She encourages us to catalogue every day for 14-30 days (or longer) the things that we’re grateful for. As was the case for her, Jennifer suggests this practice will retrain your brain down a path of positivity.

The power of saying thank you | Laura Trice 

In this talk: A super simple, short and sweet TED Talk on the power of saying a specific and genuine thank you. Be honest about the praise you need, and ask others around you what they need to hear too.

The last 2 talks aren’t specifically about gratitude, but they are about happiness. And as I’m sure you’d agree if you’ve watched any of the previous videos, there’s definitely a link between the two!

The happy secret to better work | Shawn Achor 

In this talk (which happens to be one of my favourites because Shawn is hilarious):

  • It isn’t reality that shapes us, but the lens through which you view the world shapes your reality. If you can change the lens, you can change your happiness.
  • 90% of your happiness is determined not by your external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.
  • We need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. Working harder doesn’t necessarily lead to more success, nor does more success make you feel happier.
  • Science shows that when we’re happy, we’re more productive. To get there, we need to re-train the brain to seek the positive first.

A rich life with less stuff | The Minimalists 

In this talk: What truly makes us happy? Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, also known as The Minimalists, talk about what they’ve learned about the value of community, living deliberately, having a purpose, and what really makes us rich.

So tell me…

  • What are a few things you’re grateful for today?
  • Do you have any favourite TED Talks to share (gratitude-related or otherwise)? Feel free to link up in the comments!