My next book, The Upside of Stress, is now available for pre-order at most major booksellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, iTunes Bookstore, and IndieBound (which will direct you to your local independent bookseller).  Release date: May 5, 2015.

About the book:

The author of The Willpower Instinct delivers a controversial and groundbreaking new book that overturns long-held beliefs about stress.

More than forty-four percent of Americans admit to losing sleep over stress. And while most of us do everything we can to reduce it, Stanford psychologist and bestselling author Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., delivers a startling message: Stress isn’t bad. In The Upside of Stress, McGonigal highlights new research indicating that stress can, in fact, make us stronger, smarter, and happier—if we learn how to embrace it.

The Upside of Stress is the first book to bring together cutting-edge discoveries on the correlation between resilience—the human capacity for stress-related growth—and mindset, the power of beliefs to shape reality. As she did in The Willpower Instinct, McGonigal combines science, stories, and exercises into an engaging and practical book that is both entertaining and life-changing, showing you:

  • How to cultivate a mindset to embrace stress
  • How stress can provide focus and energy
  • How stress can help people connect and strengthen close relationships
  • Why your brain is built to learn from stress, and how to increase its ability to learn from challenging experiences

McGonigal’s TED talk on the subject has already received more than 6 million views. Her message resonates with people who know they can’t eliminate the stress in their lives and want to learn to take advantage of it. The Upside of Stress is not a guide to getting rid of stress, but a guide to getting better at stress, by understanding it, embracing it, and using it.

Can’t wait for the book? Watch the TED talk or check out this article from Stanford Magazine about the upside of stress.

In June 2013, I gave my “stress confession” at TEDGlobal in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Find out why I changed my mind about stress, and why embracing stress is more important than reducing stress.
Watch the video, and check out the studies I described in the talk, below:
Keller, A., Litzelman, K., Wisk, L. E., Maddox, T., Cheng, E. R., Creswell, P. D., & Witt, W. P. (2012). Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality. Health Psychology, 31(5), 677.
Jamieson, J. P., Nock, M. K., & Mendes, W. B. (2012). Mind over matter: Reappraising arousal improves cardiovascular and cognitive responses to stress. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(3), 417.
Poulin, M. J., Brown, S. L., Dillard, A. J., & Smith, D. M. (2013). Giving to others and the association between stress and mortality. American journal of public health, (0), e1-e7.

One of the great joys of writing books is sharing with a wide audience some of the organizations that inspire me. Below are the organizations I featured in The Upside of Stress as examples of communities that aim to transform adversity and suffering into meaning, connection, and positive action. I encourage you to explore these groups, donate if their mission resonates with you, and allow them to inspire you to create similar communities of support.


Our mission is to connect under-resourced students with resources, schools, and donors to make college possible. ScholarMatch’s three-pronged program increases college persistence by leading students through the college admission process, securing financial support, and helping them select the right school. We partner with college success organizations to offer continued support to students throughout their college career, all the way to graduation. We also engage our alumni to stay involved and give back.


Sole Train

Sole Train: Boston Runs Together is a free, non-competitive, long distance running program based at Boston Public Schools and Department of Youth Services. In Sole Train, teens from Boston neighborhoods, many of whom have never run before, train for and complete a half marathon or 5-mile race.  In the process, they find their place in a supportive community that celebrates them and helps them discover just how far they can go.


The Dinner Party

Our mission: To transform life after loss from an isolating experience into one marked by community support, candid conversation, and forward movement.

Through beautiful, unstructured dinner parties hosted by friends for friends, we invite those who’ve experienced significant loss – whether a parent, partner, sibling, or friend – to dive into long-tabooed territory, sharing a defining part of ourselves that rarely sees the light of day. Together, we’re pioneering tools and community through which young people who’ve experienced significant loss can use their shared experience as a springboard toward living better, bolder, and more connected lives. We’re well aware that combatting the isolation that so often comes with loss can not be done solely behind closed doors. That’s why we’re also working to tackle widespread cultural taboos, and to create spaces and tools through which those who have yet to undergo the experience can learn to be better friends or partners to those who have.


Images & Voices of Hope

At Images & Voices of Hope (ivoh), we believe that media can create meaningful, positive change in the world. Our global community includes journalists, documentary filmmakers, photographers, social media specialists, gamers and more. Our common thread as a nonprofit is the desire to effect positive change through our work in media.

To us, positive change is about focusing on the world we want to live in – not only problem solving the world we have. It’s not about glossing difficult truths. It’s about amplifying the best in human nature and whenever possible shining a light on the steps we can take towards the future we want.


Glide Community and Glide Memorial Church

GLIDE Memorial Church believes in a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization. You can listen to their Sunday Celebrations through Glide’s podcast, and learn more about their many innovative community support programs that blur the line of who is helping and who is being helped.


Hope After Project

Hope After Project strives to create more empathetic, grief aware communities by building acts of community service in memory of those who have died. We believe no one should have to face grief alone and that every grief journey deserves to be honored.

At Hope After Project we build community service projects inspired by the lives of extraordinary people who have died. These acts of community service become living memorials that provide a positive and productive way  for those who are bereaved to honor their loved ones and to find hope.

Every Hope After Project is custom built based on the life we’re remembering and the needs of the bereaved. We’ve built military care packages, weeded in community gardens, cared for homeless animals, served food to cancer patients and planted trees.



Other Programs Mentioned in The Upside of Stress

PERTS (Project for Education Research That Scales)

A Stanford University research organization dedicated to applying research to raise academic achievement across the nation. PERTS creates and evaluates free resources that help students become more passionate, resilient, and successful learners. Educators and parents should check out their Mindset Kit, a free resource for those who want to foster adaptive academic mindsets.

EMS Corps (Pathways to Emergency Medical Careers)

The purpose of the program is to increase the number of underrepresented emergency medical technicians through youth development and job training. EMS Corps is a 5 month paid (stipend) program for minority young men between the ages of 18 to 26. EMS Corps students will be trained and educated through daily classes, tutoring, Life Coaching, mentorship support, physical fitness, and will also participate in professional and career development workshops.

Warrior Canine Connection

Warrior Canine Connection is a pioneering organization that uses Canine Connection Therapy to help wounded Warriors train service dogs and reconnect with life, their families, their communities, and each other.


HAND of the Peninsula: Helping After Neonatal Death

We are a volunteer group of parents who have experienced the loss of a baby before, during or after birth. We offer empathetic peer support to other parents and their adult relatives and friends during the normal mourning following miscarriage, stillbirth, interruption of a wanted pregnancy after prenatal diagnosis, or death in the first year of life. HAND of the Peninsula is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and all our services are free. We rely entirely on grants, donations, and volunteers to support our programs.

Watch Serving Life, a documentary about an inmate caregiver hospice program in Louisiana (in The Upside of Stress, I describe similar programs in Pennsylvania)


Since 2009, I’ve worked with the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education to develop and scientifically study programs that train compassion, empathy, and self-compassion, as well as to train professionals in leading such programs worldwide.

Below are some key resources related to this work.

Scientific Articles (Links to Full Text)

A wandering mind is a less caring mind: Daily experience sampling during compassion meditation training. Jazaieri, H., Lee, I.A., McGonigal, K.M., Jinpa, G.T., Doty, J.R., Gross, J.J., & Goldin, P.R. (in press). The Journal of Positive Psychology.

A randomized controlled trial of compassion cultivation training: Effects on mindfulness, affect, and emotion regulation. Jazaieri, Hooria, Kelly McGonigal, Thupten Jinpa, James R. Doty, James J. Gross, and Philippe R. Goldin. (2014). Motivation and Emotion, 38(1), 23-35.

Enhancing compassion: A randomized controlled trial of a compassion cultivation training program. Jazaieri, Hooria, Geshe Thupten Jinpa, Kelly McGonigal, Erika L. Rosenberg, Joel Finkelstein, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Margaret Cullen, James R. Doty, James J. Gross, and Philippe R. Goldin. Journal of Happiness Studies 14, no. 4 (2013): 1113-1126.

Pilot study of a compassion meditation intervention in chronic pain. Chapin, Heather L., Beth D. Darnall, Emma M. Seppala, James R. Doty, Jennifer M. Hah, and Sean C. Mackey. Journal of Compassionate Health Care 1 (2014): 1-12.

The Stanford Compassion Cultivation Training Program

Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) is an 8-week educational program designed to help you improve your resilience and feel more connected to others—ultimately providing an overall sense of well-being. CCT combines traditional contemplative practices with contemporary psychology and scientific research to help you lead a more compassionate life. Through instruction, daily meditation, mindfulness, and in-class interaction, you can strengthen the qualities of compassion, empathy, and kindness.

The senior author of CCT is Thupten Jinpa, PhD, in collaboration with Margaret Cullen, MFT, Kelly McGonigal, PhD, Erika Rosenberg, PhD, and Leah Weiss, PhD.

Visit the Stanford CCARE CCT information page to find certified CCT courses and teachers worldwide, and learn more about the program, including our teacher training process.

CCARE Public Events

The Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education hosts a wide range of public talks and conferences. Many of these events have been recorded and are available to view, for free, on the CCARE website. Check out the CCARE Events page for more information about upcoming events, and the CCARE Videos Archive to view past events.

This 20-min restorative yoga practice is designed to help you relax, unwind, and experience self-compassion. Practice led by Kelly McGonigal, featuring Hattie Bluestone.

This video was created as part of the Boost Your Willpower program, a free 30-day online program to help you reach your goals while cultivating mindfulness, motivation, and self-compassion. Access the full program here.


This 12-min flow yoga practice uses postures and hand gestures (mudras) to cultivate courage, compassion, wisdom, and acceptance. Practice led by Kelly McGonigal, featuring Hattie Bluestone.

This video was created as part of the Boost Your Willpower program, a free 30-day online program to help you reach your goals while cultivating mindfulness, motivation, and self-compassion. Access the full program here.


This 21-min gentle flow yoga practice is designed to help you cultivate mindfulness and self-compassion through breath awareness. Practice led by Kelly McGonigal, featuring Hattie Bluestone.

This video was created as part of the Boost Your Willpower program, a free 30-day online program to help you reach your goals while cultivating mindfulness, motivation, and self-compassion. Access the full program here.