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Kelly McGonigal Wants You To Fall In Love With Movement

By January 9, 2020January 17th, 2024No Comments
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Episode #491



We equate the new year with potential energy. It’s an opportunity to re-evaluate one’s trajectory. A permission grant to chart a new course of self-discovery.

In truth, every moment presents a window for reinvention. But January always provides heightened urgency to inventory how we spend our precious time, focus our intention and deploy our energy.

Extrapolating on themes explored with Chadd Wright, today we balance out the warrior alpha-male vibe with some feminine wisdom, courtesy of Kelly McGonigal, PhD.

A health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University who specializes in understanding the mind-body connection, Kelly is a pioneer in the field of ‘science-help,’ translating insights from psychology and neuroscience into practical strategies that support personal well-being and community connection.

There’s a decent chance you caught her amazing 2013 TED Talk, How To Make Stress Your Friend. A viral hit with over 21 million views, Kelly makes the case that social connection is both a natural instinct and a source of resilience in times of stress.

Or perhaps you’ve read one of her many amazing books, The Upside of Stress, The Willpower Instinct, or The Science of Compassion — all of which are based on classes Kelly has previously taught at Stanford

Through the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism, Kelly helped create Stanford Compassion Cultivation Training, a program now taught around the world that helps individuals strengthen their empathy, compassion, and self-compassion. And since 2000, she has taught dance, yoga, and group exercise in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In addition, Kelly has served as the psychology consultant for The New York Times Education Initiative and has appeared broadly in many mainstream media outlets, including The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show, and CNN.

Fresh off the press and the framework for today’s conversation is her latest work, The Joy of Movement. A love letter to physicality (motivated in part by the dance, yoga, and group exercise classes she has been teaching for two decades), it’s an evidence-based primer on how movement can serve as an antidote to depression, anxiety, and loneliness — the modern epidemics of our time.

“Chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort.”


Although we touch a bit on willpower and stress (the subjects explored in her previous books), this conversation focuses on what exactly happens when we move our bodies.

But movement isn’t just about fitness. It’s not about the treadmill or StairMaster. And it has nothing to do with weight loss or six-pack abs.

Instead, movement is about something far more important. It’s fundamental to being human. And a powerful path to that which we seek most — happiness, hope, connection, and courage.

Drawing on neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology, today we discuss why movement need not be a chore, but rather a source of joy. A source of self-expression. A vehicle for cooperation and social connection. A tool for mastery. And for some, even an instrument for self-transcendence.

Whether you’re an experienced ultramarathon runner, a CrossFit enthusiast or a couch potato with a new year’s resolution to finally get your heart rate up, Kelly is here to help deepen our collective understanding of how movement can create more meaning, pleasure, positivity and intimacy in our daily lives.

You can watch it all go down on YouTube. And as always, the conversation streams wild and free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Kelly is fantastic. And this conversation is a perfect way to embrace the new year enthusiastic about the body’s potential to quite literally change everything about how we experience ourselves and our communities. I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange as much as I enjoyed having it.

Peace + Plants,

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Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering and show notes; Margo Lubin and Blake Curtis for video, editing and graphics; portraits by Ali Rogers; and theme music by Hari Mathis, Tyler Piatt & Trapper Piatt.

*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.