Have you ever watched one YouTube video only to be sucked into watching one more, then another, and yet another until several hours later you are watching a video about cats that makes you wonder, how did I get here?

I have often called my nights of random YouTube video marathons “YouTube crawls,” because like pub crawls, they involve stumbling from one place to another, having fun, and being not quite sure how you ended up at the final destination.

Over the past year, instead of allowing YouTube to take me on a confusing, circuitous journey guided only by my wandering imagination and the infinite tentacles of the “Related Videos” trap, I have harnessed its power to enjoy positive, joyous, inspiration-filled videos that have had incredible benefits for my heart, mind, and overall mood.

When limited to a particular user or genre, a YouTube crawl can be an incredibly cathartic experience, a free mood enhancer that brightens your day and lifts your spirits in unimaginable ways.

One of my favorite YouTube crawls involves watching videos where Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey surprise viewers or families on their respective shows. It is my go-to cure for all that ails me.

Whether I am sick with the flu, feeling exhausted, craving inspiration, brooding over an argument with a friend, or feeling lost in life, the Ellen and Oprah YouTube crawls get me back on the road to finding my best self. I encourage you to try it. Type in “Ellen DeGeneres Surprise” or “Oprah Surprise” in the YouTube search field and let the ensuing videos from the official channels take you on a journey of joy and celebration!

Two months ago, I was laid off from my job due to budget cuts. In the weeks leading up to my last day at the office, I would come home feeling uncertain about what my next step would be. There was always a palpable level of anxiety and confusion in the air, and my nightly routine consisted of watching Ellen YouTube videos to lift my spirits.

At this juncture, I feel that I must include a WARNING: the unintended side effect of watching these videos is spontaneous bursts of cathartic crying! I am speaking from experience here. My old roommate would often catch me sobbing uncontrollably while watching, because I could not contain the emotion. I had to let it all out. In the process of sharing in the joys of others, I forgot, sometimes momentarily, often altogether, the troubles which were plaguing my consciousness.

My friend, Megan Castran, recently filmed a video blog for Gene-Manuel Whirling’s The Whirling Blog, where she talked about how, even in the depths of a particularly sad, lonely, or isolating time in your life, sharing in the joy of others, celebrating their successes, and boisterously cheering on their progress can fill your heart and mind with love and light in a way that propels you forward in a soul-expanding way.

Watching these videos serves three purposes:

  1. They remind me anything in this world is achievable. Our dreams are real, and, at any moment, our dreams can come alive in beautifully surprising ways.
  2. They remind me to be grateful for each precious moment in life, because through the stories of others, I realize that some days, even when the going gets tough, I am here, and I have the potential to move toward the life of my dreams.
  3. They remind me that I can experience as much, if not more, joy in witnessing these moments and sharing kindness than I can in being the recipient of kindness. During a recent taping of Oprah’s Lifeclass in Toronto in April 2012, Deepak Chopra shared a similar message with the audience that captured my heart. He said that by making another person happy, we increase our own happiness by fifteen percent. When you hear about world leaders or change makers discussing the power of happiness, it is often not found in the accumulation of wealth or prestige, but in the potential to use your life, voice, and message in service to others. Oprah and Ellen both talk about how it is exponentially more joyous for them to give than receive. Perhaps there is a message in that for all of us.

I may not be able to give 350 people cars like Oprah did in her season nineteen premiere, or surprise someone with a vacation, or build someone a house, but what I can do is take from those moments pockets of inspiration and energy to fuel my way towards helping where I can. Can I buy the person in line behind me at Starbucks his or her coffee? Can I drop off a bag of groceries in the food bank collection box at my local grocery store? Can I remember to ask about a co-worker’s sick parent or child? Can I commit to volunteering at the local food bank or soup kitchen? Can I share a smile with a stranger on the bus? Can I offer to pay someone’s bus fare when they are short a few dollars? Yes I can.

I’m not going to lie. Would I love to be surprised like the people in the videos? Sure, that would be amazing, but more powerful than anything physical, is the idea that true happiness is found in giving and sharing. All of my most profound memories of joy are couched in moments where I was able to share something—an experience, gift, laugh, or hug—with someone else.

As Ellen says at the end of every show, “be kind to one another.”  Let the kindness of others inspire you, buoy your spirits, and help you believe in the possibility that life, with its myriad complexities and challenges, is ultimately the repository of the world’s best gifts—joy, love, laughter, and light.

So, pop a bowl of popcorn, cue up the following videos and be prepared to laugh, cry, smile, clap your hands, holler, and jump up and down. I dare you not to be uplifted.

Feel free to share your reaction to these inspiring videos and tell us who’s on your favorite YouTube Crawl!

The Ellen DeGeneres Show: Surprise Videos

Whitney Elementary School Principal Sherrie


Ellen—Cancer Survivor Surprise


Helene Campbell—Skype Surprise


Helene Campbell—Follow Up


Jensen Family—School Pantry Surprise


Lisa Jarmon—Random Act of Kindness Surprise


The Oprah Winfrey Show: Surprise Videos (featured on Oprah’s Lifeclass on OWN)

Oprah Surprises Military Families


Oprah surprises Bernadette, a deserving single mother of nine children


Oprah Surprises Clemantine and Claire


Prasanna is an international human rights lawyer, event planner, and project manager; ultimate Oprah viewer; and television, film, and awards show afficianado. Prasanna is pop-culture personified and loves the power of TV and film to educate, entertain and inspire!  Prasanna dreams to work in the areas of media, entertainment, film and TV, opportunities which he truly feels would fulfill his lifelong passion to pursue creative work.  Most recently, Prasanna participated in Season 2 of Lifeclass as a Skype Panelist and continues to count as his proudest moment when he met Oprah Winfrey in March 2010, as captured in this video. Follow Prasanna on Twitter or find him on Facebook, or LinkedIn.

*Photo by codenamecueball.