Kelly McGonigal

Lecturer, Stanford University | Author, "The Joy of Movement, "The Upside of Stress" and "The Willpower Instinct"
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Oprah Magazine’s first 20/20 Visionary 2020

Dr. Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist and a lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. As a pioneer in the field of "science-help," her mission is to translate insights from psychology and neuroscience into practical strategies that support personal well-being and strengthen communities.

She is the author of several books, including the international bestseller The Willpower Instinct, The Upside of Stress, and her newest The Joy of Movement.

Dr. McGonigal’s newest book, The Joy of Movement, is a revolutionary narrative that goes beyond familiar arguments in favor of exercise, to illustrate why movement is integral to both our happiness and our humanity. Exercise is health-enhancing and life-extending, yet many of us feel it's a chore, but it doesn't have to be. Movement can and should be a source of joy. Through her trademark blend of science and storytelling, McGonigal shows how movement is intertwined with some of the most basic human joys, including self-expression, social connection and why it is a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The Joy of Movement tells what we can do in our lives and communities to harness the power of movement to create happiness, meaning, and connection.

Her 2013 TED talk, "How to Make Stress Your Friend," is one of the 20 Most Viewed TED talks of all time, with over 31 million views.

Through the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism, she co-authored the Stanford Compassion Cultivation Training and studies how social connection can promote health, happiness, and resilience.

Dr. McGonigal has consulted for a wide range of non-profit organizations and industries to bring evidence-based strategies for well-being into the workplace, healthcare, education, technology, and community outreach. In her free time, she is a passionate advocate for animal rescue and volunteers as an adoption counselor for Best Friends Animal Society.


The Joy of Movement

People who are physically active are happier. They have a stronger sense of purpose and experience more gratitude, love, and hope. They feel more connected to their communities and are less likely to suffer from loneliness or become depressed. These benefits are seen throughout the lifespan, apply to every socioeconomic strata, and appear to be culturally universal. In this talk, learn how and why physical activity promotes resilience, belonging, and even meaning in life. From the biological, including how exercise remodels the brain to make you more receptive to joy and social connection; to the psychological, such as how movement is intertwined with identity, self-expression, and self-efficacy; to the social, including how moving with others harnesses human instincts for teamwork, trust, and interdependence.

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The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It

Stress is unavoidable. But is it always harmful? Stanford psychologist and award-winning author Kelly McGonigal, PhD, offers a surprising new view of stress — one that reveals the upside of stress, and how to capitalize on its benefits. The latest science shows that stress can make us smarter, stronger, and more resilient. Stress can even help you connect with what you care about most and strengthen close relationships. This session will explore both what makes stress good for you, and what you can do to get good at stress. Learn how to cultivate a mindset that helps you thrive under stress, and simple strategies for transforming the biology of your stress response, to improve health and well-being. The new science of stress resilience will give you a renewed sense of optimism about your own ability to handle whatever challenges life brings.

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The Willpower Instinct

According to the American Psychological Association, Americans name “not enough willpower” as the number one thing keeping them from their goals. But what if willpower were not some unattainable virtue, but a natural instinct you could train? What if willpower were a strength you could cultivate, or even a “contagious” state of mind you could share with others? Stanford University Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct and The Neuroscience of Change, describes the latest scientific insights into what willpower is, why you already have it, and how to develop it. Learn practical strategies for tapping into the body’s willpower reserves, training the brain for greater focus and self-control, transforming old habits, and overcoming the most common willpower challenges.

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The Science of Change

What's your most important goal? Why does it matter so deeply? And how will you overcome the obstacles? Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct and The Neuroscience of Change, describes the latest scientific insights into why change is hard — and how people can succeed. Discover why the strategies many people use to ignite change — including stress, self-criticism, and guilt — actually sabotage success, and how to make mindfulness, self-compassion, and social support the foundation for lasting change. Learn practical, science-based strategies for getting started, taming an overwhelmed brain, overcoming setbacks, and staying motivated.

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When it comes to health, there is often a wide gap between what we know we should and what we actually do. Stanford University health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct and The Neuroscience of Change, describes the latest neuroscientific and psychological insights into what keeps us stuck, and what makes change stick. Dr. McGonigal will explore the three sides of willpower (“I won’t” power, “I will” power, and “I want” power), and how they work together to transform old habits and build healthier ones. You’ll learn why stress, including health-related guilt or fear, can sabotage behavior change, and how to create a sense of control and hope that boosts motivation. Dr. McGonigal will also share strategies for going beyond the “self” of self-control, including outsourcing willpower to the home environment, and how to make change contagious. The new science of willpower will increase your empathy for patients struggling to change, while giving you fresh ideas for enhancing patient compliance, prescription adherence, and behavior change.

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Willpower Book Talk
Kelly McGonigal
How to make stress your friend | TED
Kelly McGonigal
How exercise can promote happiness | CBS News
Kelly McGonigal


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Stress and the Mind-Body Connection
Medpage Today
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Feeling Nervous? How Anxiety Can Fuel Better Communication
Stanford Business
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The Joy Workout
New York Times
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Kelly McGonigal Wants You to Fall in Love with Movement
Rich Roll
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How's You Stress Level?
Lewis Howes Podcast
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Can You Make Movement More Joyful?
Psychology Today


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