Where did I go?

Happiness—that elusive state of being that we all seek. A range of emotions can take us to happy—feeling calm and carefree, anticipation and excitement, and always, basking in that special moment of sheer joy.

There are also those times when happiness seems out of reach, and we find ourselves in a darker place—not outright depression, but that place where your energy is drained, and you can’t seem to put one foot in front of the other. Most of us have been there. Oftentimes, it doesn’t last very long, but when you’re in it, it’s hard to get out.

That happened as I was preparing to launch this website. It was hard to focus and nearly impossible to be creative. I wanted to do something to clear the fog, believe that life was managed, and well…feel happy.

Dealing with life when it stinks——mac ‘n cheese or TED talks?

Finding the energy to dig out isn’t always easy, but thankfully I found enough of it to push forward. One thing that has helped in the past is turning to my gratitude journal, or looking over lists that I’ve made up of what makes me happy and inspired. I even put dates them. It helps me go back and think of what life was like at that moment—different things can work at different points in your life.

It also wouldn’t have been uncommon for me to turn to mac ‘n cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich, or a big plate of pasta (yes, of course, with cheese) but this time, I pulled up some TED talks. It was a much better choice:) I needed an infusion of energy—a real, live person who could inspire me and make me laugh—bring me out of my fog. It really helped. Watch them—if you’re in one of those places, I bet they can help you climb out, too. And if you’re in a good place—maybe they can help you climb even higher.

I’ve included some brief takeaways from each talk. While the takeaways are interesting, they’re only a few of the important points that were made in each presentation. The links are right there—pull up the full TED talk—they’re engaging and funny, they only take a few minutes to watch, and they’re so worth your time.  

Until next time,

Copyright 2019 – 2023 Maggie Stenman Communications, LLC

Finding inspiration with TED Talks

The Three A’s of Awesome—Neil Pasricha, TEDxToronto2010

Neil Pasricha is a three-time Webby award winner for his website, 1000 Awesome Things. He is also a New York Times best-selling author, best known for The Book of Awesome, and The Happiness Equation, and he is the director of the Institute of Happiness.

1000 Awesome Things focuses on the simple things in life that can make us happy—for example, Finding money you didn’t even know you lost; or When cashiers open up new check-out lanes at the grocery store. The amazing part of the story is that Pasricha started the blog right after his marriage crumbled and his best friend took his own life, both events happening within a month of each other. His TED talk, The Three A’s of Awesome is easy to connect with and puts a lot of things in perspective.


  • How the Three A’s of Awesome—Attitude, Awareness, and Authenticity—fueled Pasricha’s own personal growth during that very difficult period.
  • How will you respond when you find yourself in life’s depths? Grieve and move on, or stay mired in gloom?
  • Life is short—make the most of it.

What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness—Robert Waldinger, TEDxBeaconStreet 2015

Robert Waldinger talks about the results of an ongoing 75-year study that has tracked the lives of 724 men from the time they were teenagers through old age. Rare in its scope and duration, The Harvard Study of Adult Development is likely the longest study ever done to see what really makes people happy and healthy. The study is also unusual in that the responses come from current conversations rather than relying on participants’ memories. Participants came from a variety of backgrounds that included both Harvard students and residents from some of the most troubled neighborhoods in Boston. It has followed these men year after year, finding out about their work, their home lives, and their health. Not only were 60 of the original group still alive (most in their 90s) and participating in the study at the time of the TED talk, the researchers had now included many wives and were beginning to work with the more than 2000 children of the original participants.

Some findings:

  • Fame and money may be popular goals of the young, but good relationships are the key to keeping us happier and healthier in life.
  • It’s not just the quantity of the friends that you have—what matters most is the quality of your relationships.
  • Participants with the most satisfying relationships in their 50s went on to be the healthiest participants in their 80s.

The surprising science of happiness—Dan Gilbert, TED2004, Monterey, CA

Harvard psychologist and author of the New York Times best-selling book, Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert talks about how our psychological immune system makes us feel better about the world, and how studies have found that different outcomes have far less intensity and duration on people’s lives than people expect them to have.


  • The prefrontal cortex of our brains provides humans with an experience simulator, where we can try out different situations in our heads before trying them out in real life.
  • Humans synthesize happiness, though we think that happiness is something to be found.
  • There is a belief that synthetic happiness is inferior to natural happiness, but it is every bit as real and enduring as natural happiness.