The Same 24 Hours

Kelly McGonigal: The Joy of Movement (and the Upside of Stress)

November 30, 2020

Kelly McGonigal, PhD, is an author, psychologist and educator. You may know her from her book The Upside of Stress and her Ted talk about stress here: How to Make Stress Your Friend,” which makes the case that social connection is both a natural instinct and a source of resilience in times of stress, started out as a lecture for Stanford’s Introduction to Psychology course.

Kelly writes, "My mission, as an author, psychologist, and educator, is to... help each of us find our own strength and the courage to lift one another up. To amplify what is good in humanity, and to support the communities that bring out the best in us. 

I believe that science and stories are two of the best ways to inspire self-understanding, empathy for others, and connection with a broader sense of common humanity. Through all my work, I aim to share my own awe about the human condition, whether that’s being amazed by how the brain functions or being elevated by our capacity to transform suffering into meaning.

I am a teacher at heart, and all of my books are based on classes I have taught at Stanford University. THE WILLPOWER INSTINCT was based on my popular psychology course “The Science of Willpower,” and THE UPSIDE OF STRESS began as “Living Well with Stress.” 

My latest book THE JOY OF MOVEMENT explores how physical exercise can be a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The book is at once a love letter to movement and to human nature, including our remarkable abilities to persist, cooperate, and experience transcendence. It, too, is rooted in my experiences as a teacher—I started leading group exercise classes as a graduate student in psychology, and it continues to be one of the greatest sources of happiness in my life.

I am passionate about giving back and helping others do so. Through the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism, I helped create the Stanford Compassion Cultivation Training, a course now taught around the world that helps individuals develop greater empathy, compassion, and social connection.

I also take joy in supporting two causes that are especially close to my heart: education and animal rescue. Both of my parents were public school teachers, and my husband and I were married at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Learn more about some of my favorite non-profit organizations and how you can get involved.

As part of my mission to share psychological science with the public, I have enjoyed a wide range of roles, including serving as the psychology consultant for The New York Times Education Initiative, hosting interviews with scientists and authors for Public Radio’s City Arts & Lectures, and appearing on television shows such as The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show, and CNN’s Vital Signs."


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