WATCH: My TED Talk “How to Make Stress Your Friend”

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.


  1. Very interesting talk. I wonder if the same sort of thing holds true for the benefits of exercise, I.e., is exercise more beneficial if you enjoy doing it than when you are dragged to it?

      • Thanks Maggie for sharing that link. I was very intrigued by that study when it came out and have been disappointed that attempts to replicate it with different populations have failed. I don’t know if the original success has to do with the intensity of the participant’s work activity, or something the cleaning staff did that other research groups’ participants didn’t, or what. But in general I think mindset matters and wish we knew more about how to harness the placebo effect.

  2. Really enjoyed the TEDtalk. I’ll reframe all my old beliefs around stress – perhaps with NLP or CBT. The glass is half full again. Also found your book on the Willpower Instinct very helpful. Thanks!

  3. Hi Kelly,

    Do you see people individually for yoga training? I’ve had a request from someone who wants to work with a yoga teacher for ways she’s holding emotions in her body after a tree fell on her house. I thought you’d be great.

    Thanks, in any case!
    Renee Burgard

  4. I’m a 25 year old former soldier working and going to school full time. I live a very high stress life and it’s evidenced by impacts on my physical health (anxiety, migraines, cardiac issues, etc). I’m very encouraged that the perception of stress is the core problem (as I view stress as the root of my issues and the bane of my existence). However, can you translate this information into something actionable for me? How can I change my perception of stress for the long term?

  5. Hi Kelly! I loved this talk, and agree that compassion has an immense role in resilience & energy (ie Tibetan medicine model) But, out of curiosity, how do you account for caregiver stress, which doesn’t affect all caregivers, of course, but still? Is this strictly an issue of framing the stress to achieve the more positive outcome? Or do you see a role for body-based mindfulness? (i.e. perhaps learning to be aware when the oxytocin has converted into a more corrosive cortisol overload) Great talk. Thanks!

  6. Real nice video Kelly. You know it’s not just true in the subject of ‘stress’ but about any topic. There is seldom any universal truth. What we ‘believe’ becomes our own personal truth. And this is proven now scientifically.

    Those who believes that life is fun, that’s how life becomes. Those who believe life is difficult, that’s how life turns out. Those who believe that only honest way to be rich is to work hard, can never make a lot of money without working long hours, but those who believes that money comes to them effortlessly & easily tend to earn honestly but from comparatively less effort. Same is for health, relationship everything. Don’t you know some who eat fastfood & doesn’t exercise much, but still maintain a healthy & fit physique?

    Have you studied materials by Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Esther & Jerry Hicks (Abraham)? Their work gives a in-depth insights on this subject.

  7. […] Haven’t you heard that stress is bad for your health? There is even a popular saying “this stress is killing me”. But today I found this very eye-opening video from Kelly McGonigal ( shared by my friend Paushali on Facebook). Kelly, who is a popular Health Psychologist, discloses in this video that ‘our negative belief about stress is more harmful than the stress itself’! Watch the video to find out all new perspective about ‘stress’. Don’t forget to comment what you think of it! Original Article: […]

  8. Really wonderful reframe of stress and learning to connect with it and connect to empathy and connecting with others to produce oxytocin….my question is when you have clients that over connect with others and over care for others…is there data on how that may impact their oxytocin and how to know when that is happening. Thanks so much!!

  9. Kelly,

    Truly great talk here. I work a very high stress job and am starting my own business on the side. I have actively been shifting my perspective on stressors day to day. I feel better and get a lot more done.

    Thank you for this!


  10. […] to my blog! After seeing this speech by Doctor Kelly McGonigal, I hope people begin to deal with stress better, and stop avoiding it. […]

  11. ‘This is my body helping me with this challenge’ what a revolutionary way to see stress. I thought about our hearts pumping fast when making love which is a very positive activity…but we don’t think of it as a destructive one.
    Thank you so much for the talk, very enjoyable

  12. Kelly, This is such amazing information! As someone healing from Complex PTSD, I have found that connection, changing my perspective on stress, and physical touch (massage therapy) have all been essential to my recovery. Thank you for spreading the message and encouraging others to take their power back from stress.

  13. Hi Kelly – I’m reading Willpower Instinct right now and It’s very helpful in understanding how it all works. Especially in the context of what I do — helping people lose weight. Thanks for this talk too. More and more I’m realizing how powerful mindset and state control is for performance in daily life. It’s getting talked about a lot these days.

    I’m working on a guide to willpower as it pertains to the day to day tasks required for people to lose weight and get healthier, and your book is providing a good foundation for how I should explore this issue specifically. Looking forward to more work from you.

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