Stanford Open Office Hours: Kelly McGonigal



For all the joy they bring, the holidays can be stressful. In this session of Stanford Open Office Hours, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD ’04, provides advice on navigating the upcoming season with compassion, poise and willpower.

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29 thoughts on “Stanford Open Office Hours: Kelly McGonigal

  1. Anything perceived as a stress needs an investigation, most often it is from an open issue, question, problem, thought, idea etc., which has not been answered resulting in a vicious cycle exhausting our valuable energy and resources.

  2. I wish I could come to Stanford just to meet Dr Kelly McGonigal. I'm a sociology student who has been dealing with stress and just started reading her book "The Upside of Stress" . It has drastically started changing my mindset about it all. I hope to meet her one day and be able to talk in person about all of these topics 馃檪

  3. My willpower broke.聽 I used to have super strong willpower, and I had to use it constantly, because I had no joy in life, but fear of negative outcomes of not doing what I was told was necessary.聽 I hated school, despised my teachers, was outcast by my classmates.聽 And let's face it; from about age 7-30, life is school.聽 That's pretty much it.聽 I had to force myself to get up, to go, to do homework, to reach what they told聽 me to read, to not beat the shit out of verbal bullies unless I could get them to attack me first.聽 Everyday, to live was an act of will power from first grade onward.聽 Mostly I felt extremely oppressed by homework and other long term school projects because I felt they already had 8 hours of my day every day, and then they were demanding I surrender the rest of the hours, but not just my time but also wanted my mind, to not let me choose what to think about.
    聽聽 I went to college.聽 What choice was there? To start flipping burgers at McDonalds?聽 I couldn't bear that.聽 I switched schools when I couldn't bear the first one any longer.聽
    聽聽 Then with one semester left before graduation from college, in that interval between semesters, I realized I wasn't going back.聽 I was broken, and I had no more willpower.聽
    聽聽聽 It was 5 years before I managed to go back and finish that last semester, which took all I had.聽 And聽I've hardly worked or had a job since.
    聽聽 But for me it wasn't a short term depletion of willpower requiring replenishment.聽 It took over a decade to finally break, and when it did, it never came back.聽 I went from someone with unusually strong willpower to someone with almost none.
    聽聽 Now it's been another decade and more of listlessness and apathy.聽 For me it is simply a cost/benefit analysis.聽 Nobody jumps into anything unpleasant unless they anticipate a reward.聽 And I no longer perceive rewards for anything.
    聽聽 From this moment, right now, all of you reading this, are going to work work work, and work some more, and at the same time, get old, suffer, decreptify, suffer more, and then die in pain and terror.聽 All the while, you'll be motivated by a sense of hope, hope for personal betterment… hope so vague and contrary to everything you know to be true, that you never even articulate it.聽聽To articulate it would be to reveal it's falseness and shatter the delusion you need.聽 A sense of progress on the passenger train to death.聽 It's a horrible joke, but that's the only way anything ever gets done.
    聽聽 Humans, being sentient, are the only species cursed with the cognition to recognize how truly cruel and pathetic it is to be alive.聽 Fortunately we have the gift of cognitive dissonance, an evolved defense mechanism to keep us from self termination.
    聽聽 I'm able to use it somewhat;聽 I play a video game and try not to remember how meaningless is the virtual progression of my virtual character.聽 The only peace is to accept and even look forward to death, the cessation of existence.聽 But all the suffering and hopelessness along the way: that's hard to come to terms with.聽 I fear death, but聽I fear life more.

  4. Personally I find that you can substitute the word "prayer" for meditation or mindfulness. There is research that shows prayer or biblical meditation has similar benefits. 聽Not that you'll probably ever hear a professor at Stanford ever admit to it.

  5. Emotions are definitely choices, especially happiness. The grumpy change their mood immediately when someone new knocks on the door–twofaced. If another person can evoke such emotional change, we can strive to have more control over what emotions to pursue. Some people let their emotions rule themselves 24/7 instead of being selective about the emotion to embrace and when to embrace it. Whether nurture and/or nature, men compartmentalize their emotions much more than women as a generalization (not individually of course). The sex (biochemical component) of a person probably plays a great role in how the individual male or female might deal with specific behaviors.

  6. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. 聽I'm honored. 聽I really enjoyed your book and I'm glad to see a candid video where you discuss your personal convictions on the subject.

  7. Dear KELLY MCGONIGAL, PHD. I have to admit to my self that your are very clever. Unlike some other authors of psychological books which have written in a way that is less comprehendsive and unrealistic such as Jean Marie Stine (Double Your Brain Power), your writing sounds more realistic, more careful and down-to-earth. Thank you very much for sharing your talents. GBU.

  8. Amazing speech. Also you would like to add that a night of full good sleep recharges your body n brain … amazing how you get perspective of things that might stress you in the evening but how you change your approach when waking up the day next.聽 ;- )

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