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.

Life Hacker has a great interview series called “How I Work” that asks writers, CEOS, tech geeks, artists, and other creative/productive folks to explain the how, not the what, of their work process. Dig deep into details about everything from the gadgets they use to their work spaces (photos included), their favorite music playlists, and ahowIworkll-time best time-saving tricks.

I did an interview in their series, which you can read here.

I was completely honest about my work quirks — things that seem like the opposite of what you should do, but that totally work for me (e.g. listen to loud dance music when you need to focus; stay up all night; never make a to-do list; keep your desk a mess; procrastinate a lot).

Read more fun interviews in the How I Work Series at LifeHacker.
And you can also tell me in the comments: Do you have a favorite music genre/playlist/internet radio station/old-fashioned album you listen to when you work?

KellySpeakingHoping to wake up as some new, ideal you in 2013?

Most New Year’s resolutions are based on the assumption that who you really are is inadequate, and must be improved through self-discipline, joyless striving, and maybe a leftover Christmas miracle.

I invite you to take a different approach this year, one that starts from the recognition that whatever it is you want to be, do, or have, you already have the seeds inside yourself to make it happen. With a bit of focused energy and self-compassion, you can reach your goals. I call this approach “New Year, TRUE You.”

Instead of vowing to makeover your personality, why not commit to honoring your strengths and values? Give yourself permission to dream big, even if you’re more used to self-doubt. Take positive steps toward change even if you feel overwhelmed or unsure where you’re headed.

To help you with whatever your 2013 goals are, I’ve put together a guide to the various programs and resources I’ve created to support the process of change. Pick the one that seems like right fit for you; though they differ in content, the spirit is the same.

Happy New Year!

Best,

Kelly

“Boost Your Willpower: 28 Days to Create the Change You Want A Free 4-Week Online Program through YogaJournal.com

Through this exclusive Yoga Journal program, created by Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal, you will learn to identify what you really want and gain the tools and skills needed to reach those goals. You can do this program anytime, at your own pace. After you sign up, you’ll receive daily emails with links to asana practices, meditations, and self-reflection exercises to tap your inner guidance, focus your energy, and strengthen your willpower muscles. Plus, you’ll enjoy great information and tips about how willpower works and how to create a life that supports all of your goals. The program also includes invitations to live online chats with Dr. McGonigal.

Note: I’m especially excited about this program because it provides participants with free access to professionally produced yoga videos and guided meditations. The program includes four different yoga videos: a gentle flow practice emphasizing breathing stretches; a more energetic flow practice accessible to all levels; a restorative yoga practice; and my favorite, a simple flow practice integrating mudras (hand gestures). Sign up now!

Choose to Change” On-Demand 6-Week Video/Audio course from SoundsTrue.com

Do you feel stuck in old habits that no longer serve you? Have you been struggling to make a change that you know will bring greater health and happiness into your life? In Choose to Change, Dr. Kelly McGonigal presents a six-week online video course on the process of intentional change that blends lecture, experiential exercises and guided meditations, Q&A with participants, and more. CE credits available to a range of healthcare professionals. This series includes videos of previously live sessions, as well as downloadable MP3s of all meditation/self-reflection practices in the program. Get immediate access online at Sounds True.

The Neuroscience of Change” 6-Session Audio Program from SoundsTrue.com

The Neuroscience of Change: A Compassion-Based Guide to Personal Transformation presents six live (unscripted) talks and twelve guided self-reflection and mediation practices to support the process of change. This audio series integrates the most exciting scientific findings about how the mind works with the wisdom of mind-body traditions like yoga and Buddhism. It deepens some of the most important ideas from The Willpower Instinct, including the importance of mindfulness, self-compassion, and acceptance for change. The program also provides practical support to help you explore and embody these qualities through breathing, meditation, and relaxation practices.

You can order the 6-CD set OR download the program in MP3 format at Sounds True. CE Credits available for the downloadable version.

Or order the 6-CD set from any major bookseller, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Chapters (Canada), and Indie Bound.

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats everywhere. Also available in Chinese, Dutch, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and other translations — check your regional booksellers to see if it is available. Published as “Maximum Willpower” in the UK.

I’m frequently asked questions about how to get started meditating, what is the best meditation for beginners, what is the best meditation for reducing stress (or training willpower, or cultivating self-compassion, or developing focus, etc.). Below is my favorite meditation for all these intentions.

You can listen to (or download) a version of these instructions and a 15-min guided practice here.

Mindfulness of Breathing

The intention of this practice is to turn your attention to the breath, notice when the mind wanders, and bring your attention back to the breath.

This meditation cultivates self-awareness, mindfulness, and the ability to make conscious choices about what you are doing. It also is good practice in not following every impulse or habit.

There are a few different ways to focus on the breath; choose the one that feels right to you.

The first involves labeling the breath. As you inhale, say in your own mind inhale, say in your own mind “Inhale.” As you exhale, say in your own mind “Exhale.”

The second approach is to focus your attention on the sensations of your breath. For example, you might notice the flow of the breath in and out of your nostrils. Or you could focus on feeling your belly expand when you breathe in, and release when your breath out. Let yourself notice whatever sensations of breathing are present.

The last approach is to count your breathing cycles. Each time you exhale, that counts as one cycle. So with your next exhalation, you would mentally count “one.” With the second exhalation, “two.” With the third exhalation, “three.” Continue counting until you reach 10; then begin again at 1. If your mind wanders and you lose count, simply begin again at one.

When you practice, you can use any of the techniques, but it’s good to find one you like and stick with it.

Your mind will inevitably wander. That’s not a problem; it’s part of the process. When you notice your mind wandering, let it point you back to the breath. Each time you notice the mind daydreaming, or planning, or worrying, or whatever the mind does – that is an opportunity to cultivate awareness, and bring your focus back to the present moment experience of breathing in and breathing out.

Have an attitude of compassion toward mental distractions. These are simply habits of the mind that contribute to our daily stress. When you find your mind wandering, gently but resolutely guide your focus back to the breath as an act of self-compassion — without self-judgment or preoccupation with the content of the distractions.

How to Practice:

Begin by practicing for 5 min, 1-3x day; build up to 15-20 min at a time, 1-2x day.

Meditate in a comfortable, upright position. You can sit in a chair, or on the floor with a pillow, cushion, or stacked blanket under your hips or. Sit with your back comfortably straight. If you are sitting in a chair, place your feet flat on the floor.

If sitting is painful, you can practice in any position that allows you to feel physically supported while also staying alert and awake.

Your eyes can be closed or open. If you leave them open, drop your gaze, and let the eyes rest, without wandering or focusing on anything specific.

As you practice, keep the body as still as possible. Make a commitment to holding the posture you have chosen, without fidgeting or moving around. This is an important part of training the mind to make conscious choices. See if you can feel the impulse to move before you mindlessly follow it; when you feel the urge, pause, and see if you can calmly observe the impulse without acting on it. Most of the time, the impulse will recede on its own.

Always end a session by appreciating and acknowledging your own practice. The success of focus meditation is your own willingness to sit, attend to the breath, notice when the mind wanders, and bring it back to the breath. Some days it may be easier to focus than others, but trust that as long as you are coming back, again and again, to the breath, you are cultivating self-awareness, mindfulness, and the ability to make conscious choices.

My fall 2011 Stanford University course “How to Think Like a Psychologist” is now available as a series of free, downloadable videos through iTunes university.

In this fun course, I invited my favorite psychology and neuroscience researchers at Stanford to talk about their work and what it means for everyday life and real-world problems. Each class starts with a 45-min lecture by the guest speaker, followed by about 30 minutes of Q&A from myself and course participants. I had a great time grilling these amazing scientists about everything from politics to education, parenting, shopping, and the scientific process. You’ll even hear a few personal stories they’ve never shared in public before!

Featured speakers include: Chris Bryan, Philippe Goldin, James Gross, Bridgette Martin Hard, Brian Knutson, and Greg Walton. My special thanks to these psychologists for agreeing to let us share their talks with the world. (Several speakers declined, citing a “bad hair day” and other concerns. Oh well.)

Check out the full course at iTunes.

And for more details about my psychology classes that are open to the general public, visit Stanford Continuing Studies.

Enjoy!

For the first time ever, I taught one of my 6-week courses live online this year. The videos from this course, along with all supportive class materials (e.g. guided practice MP3s, worksheets/homework exercises), are available for you to guide yourself through the course at your own pace. See below for all the course details, and register for the program at Sounds True for $49 ( 6 hrs of Continuing Education credit available for psychologists, social workers, and other healthcare professionals for an additional fee of $24).

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Do you feel stuck in old habits that no longer serve you? Have you been struggling to make a change that you know will bring greater health and happiness into your life? In Choose to Change, Dr. Kelly McGonigal presents a six-week online video course on the process of intentional change that blends lecture, experiential exercises and guided meditations, Q&A with participants, and more.

What You Will Receive:
  • Six hours of recorded live video sessions, yours to download and keep
  • 6 Guided meditations (MP3s) with Dr. Kelly McGonigal, yours to download and keep
  • Archived online forum to connect with conversations/Q&A between participants and the author
  • Weekly recommended exercises to support your training

Drawing from her popular courses at Stanford University, Dr. McGonigal will present six weekly live video sessions designed to help you reach your specific goal. Whether it’s changing a habit, cultivating a particular strength, creating health, or transforming a stressful pattern in your life, you’ll be supported in choosing a personal focus and implementing the strategies for making that change.

Each live session will blend lecture, experiential exercises and guided meditations, and Q&A with the author. In addition, you’ll receive “real-world” homework assignments and self-reflection practices. And through the online forum, you can further discuss your experiences with fellow course participants along with Dr. McGonigal.

Mindful Awareness and Self-Compassion for Change

For so many of us, even the idea of change can be overwhelming. We fear that true change is impossible; we give up too easily in the face of obstacles; we focus on the wrong things and try to “control the uncontrollable”; or we might even think that we can’t be happy until we accomplish the change we most want.

In Choose to Change, you will discover how to create a new and healthy relationship to change, through a compassionate, mindful approach seen throughout the world’s wisdom traditions—and being verified today in the emerging fields of neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. Learn more about:

  • Cultivating a transformational vision for your life
  • How to mindfully engage with your new choices
  • Identifying your core values and making specific commitments
  • How to move from self-criticism to self-compassion
  • The dance of change and acceptance
  • How to direct the ongoing flow of change

The Unfolding Process of Personal Transformation

From behaviors to beliefs big and small, everyone has something they’d like to change about themselves. Choose to Change brings you clinically supported methods—what Dr. McGonigal calls her favorite “science-help” strategies—for training the mind away from default states and negativity that no longer serve us, and establishing behaviors and attitudes aligned with our highest values and aspirations. Join her in this empowering program for reflecting inner change in the outer world and embracing the unfolding process of personal transformation.

Register for the program at Sounds True for $49 ( 6 hrs of Continuing Education credit available for psychologists, social workers, and other healthcare professionals for an additional fee of $24).

About two years ago, some participants in my Science of Willpower course started to name “technology addiction” as their main willpower challenge. It’s only accelerated since then, as we’ve fallen more fully in love with our devices.

Last week I stopped by the Toronto studios of the CBC to give advice about how to gain more willpower over the siren songs of your cellphone, email, Facebook, or whatever tech-drug leaves you never satisfied but always seeking your next fix.

Watch the video below. You can also listen to the full radio interview I did with Spark host Nora Young here. Or check out two articles on this topic from the New York Times, which includes my comments as well as other experts and leaders in the tech world: The Workplace Benefits of Being Out of Touch and Silicon Valley Worries About Addiction to Devices.

Kelly McGonigal on Spark from Ryan Couldrey on Vimeo.