“Ideas worth spreading”: this is the slogan of the TED (Technology, Engineering, and Design) organization, and it informs every TED Talk that they curate. Speakers run the gamut from everyday people to world-renowned scientists, artists, and thinkers. These ten to 15-minute gems offer a brief glimpse into the world, a peek that might inspire you or transform the way you think about life. Health and well-being is the lively topic of many TED Talks, and here we share some of the most thought-provoking talks behind the science (and art) of healthy living. Maybe you will see something in one of these TED Talks to get your health back on track!
8 TED Talks to get your health back on track
In this five-minute talk, Gary Wolf talks about how we can use new tracking apps to “…reflect, learn, remember and want to improve.” He points out how our lives can be affected and improved by new data collecting devices for everything from sleep to asthma attacks and concludes his talk with this thought:
“The self is just our operation center, our consciousness, our moral compass. So, if we want to act more effectively in the world, we have to get to know ourselves better.”
Just one small change can make a huge difference in your life. Merchant suggests that sitting is so ubiquitous that we don’t even think to question the amount of sitting we do everyday. When she couldn’t squeeze in a regular meeting, Merchant suggested a walking meeting and since then has walked and met for 20 to 30 miles every week. She ends her talk with this call to action:
“…walk and talk. Walk the talk. You’ll be surprised at how fresh air drives fresh thinking, and in the way that you do, you’ll bring into your life an entirely new set of ideas.”
You wouldn’t think that healthy living could be dangerous to your health or sanity. A.J. Jacobs spent an entire year following expert advice on health for all areas of the body. Applying sunscreen by the shot glass, wearing a helmet while walking down the street, and wiping down all of the germy surfaces in his house were just a few of the changes he made in the quest for healthy living. What he found was that his social network suffered, and although he was much healthier by the end of the year in the traditional sense, healthy living meant also incorporating one important part of life: joy.
In this talk about the science of vision and perception, social psychologist Emily Balcetis discusses how individual brains perceive things differently. This different vision can affect how people perceive the task of exercise, making some individuals literally see it as harder than others. Even the shape of our bodies influences our motivation, persistence, and understanding of the effort needed to reach a goal. Understanding these factors, she argues:
“We can teach ourselves to see[the world and exercise] differently, and when we find a way to make the world look nicer and easier, it might actually become so.”
“By taking ownership of your data just like we’ve done, just by taking this daily measurements about yourself, you become the expert on your body.”
In this lively talk sprinkled with humor and personal anecdotes, statistician Talithia Williams asserts that tracking data on ourselves is the best way to take control of our lives and our health. Keeping simple statistics on the daily rhythms of our bodies helps us become the authority that we need to be to advocate for ourselves.
With so much new research on genetic screening for hereditary conditions, Dean Ornish argues that changes in lifestyle can change what your genes predict. Ornish notes:
“When you eat healthier, manage stress, exercise and love more, your brain actually gets more blood flow and more oxygen. But more than that, your brain gets measurably bigger.”
He goes on to say that although our genes may predispose us to certain conditions, but they are not our fate.
Pediatrician Elliot Krane starts his serious talk with a funny joke, but what he talks about is no laughing matter. He discusses chronic pain, the disease that starts out as a symptom of something else and then becomes its own condition. His clear and compassionate discussion of what happens in the body of a person suffering from chronic pain is a must-watch for anyone with chronic pain or who has a loved one who has this condition.
In this less-than-ten-minute talk, Andy Puddicombe extols the virtues of taking ten minutes daily to do nothing: no talking, texting, eating, reading, or drinking. He advocates being in the present moment as a way to deal with stress and unhappiness, pointing out that “on average, our minds are lost in thought almost 47% of the time.” With just a bit of focus, some of that 47% can be used to our benefit by just being mindful and aware in the moment we are in. Just ten minutes a day can “impact our entire life.”
These are just a sampling of TED talks about health and well-being. A cursory search for the term “health” finds a playlist of talks on taking charge of your healthcare, a talk on why healthcare should be a team sport, and another playlist of talks on what’s wrong with what we eat. TED Talks are a great way to think differently about the world around us, and they are just short enough to slide easily into our day.
What TED Talks are you most interested in seeing? Do you have a favorite? Share it with us!
Image courtesy of Ryan Lash via Flickr, with permission