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.


San Francisco Public Radio did a lovely 1-hr show on the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. The piece features the founder of CCARE, the scientists who are studying compassion, as well as one of my compassion cultivation courses, and stories from students in it.

You can download or stream the audio story here, or read the transcript here.

Below is one of my favorite excerpts:

Deborah Defilippo heard about CCARE when she attended the 2010 discussion between scientists and the Dalai Lama. Researchers talked about the health benefits of meditation.

“I am, I guess you could say I’m a type A, high achieving person,” DeFilippo says. “And I’m now catching myself when someone in front of me is driving below the speed limit, saying the phrases that are in almost every single meditation practice that Kelly has. And that is, you say for each individual and yourself and the world, ‘May you be happy. May you be free from pain and suffering. And may you experience joy and peace.’ …It’s like taking a deep breath and a lot of calm does instill within me.”

Stanford’s CCARE program has its critics. Some worry this type of secular practice will lose something, and perhaps lack substance. Others say the aspirations of CCARE – to make a more compassionate world  — are too idealistic. They question how much students can learn in nine weeks.

But McGonigal says many students do connect what’s taught by CCARE with what’s occurring in their lives.

“One of my favorite stories was a man who was in a church setting and a homeless woman had approached this group that was meeting at the church…. And he could feel in himself that little bit of threat or stress arising that would normally have led him to maybe get rid of that person as quickly as possible so that she didn’t disturb the group that was meeting.”

The man remembered a lesson from the previous week in class.

“He considered the other ways of thinking about her,” McGonigal said. “That, just like him, she was human. She was suffering. Going down the checklist, does this person need help? Do I have the resources to help? And turns out that she had diabetes and she needed food and there wasn’t food available in that moment and the people in the group were able to get her something to eat and the whole thing ended very differently because he was using this framework from the study that we talked about … People can take something from a study and use it in everyday life.”

– Narrated by Judy Silber for San Francisco Public Radio. You can download or stream the audio story here, or read the entire transcript here.

I’m excited to announce the release of my latest audiobook, which presents six live lectures and twelve guided self-reflection and mediation practices. The Neuroscience of Change: A Compassion-Based Guide to Personal Transformation (Sounds True) 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 (Avery 2012), 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.

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

Program Description

Personal Transformation Based on Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

What’s your most important goal? Why does it matter so deeply? How will you overcome the obstacles? Answer these questions with sincerity, proceed with mindfulness and compassion, and you have just set in motion a revolutionary method for personal change that is supported by both the latest science and traditional wisdom. On The Neuroscience of Change, psychologist and award-winning Stanford lecturer Kelly McGonigal presents six sessions of breakthrough ideas, guided practices, and real-world exercises for making self-awareness and kindness the basis for meaningful transformation.

Practical Methods to Retrain Your Brain to Support Your Goals

Our understanding of the incredible power of the human brain is at an all-time high, with the emerging fields of neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, and psychophysiology opening new possibilities for greater health, happiness, and freedom from suffering. Drawing on her training as a research scientist and longtime practitioner of meditation and yoga, Dr. McGonigal reveals these startling findings, including the clinically supported methods for training the mind away from default states that no longer serve us, and establishing behaviors and attitudes aligned with our highest values and aspirations.

The First Rule of Change: It’s Already Happening

As the world’s wisdom traditions teach and science is now verifying, our lives are in fact defined by constant change. Whether you’re looking to change a behavior, improve your health or other circumstances, or simply for a way to bring hope and resilience into your life as it is, The Neuroscience of Change will help you trust yourself and unfold your true capacities for personal transformation.


  • Willingness, self-awareness, and surrender—how to nourish the seeds of change
  • Focusing on the process, not the outcome
  • How to overcome the “trigger-to-instinct” reaction
  • The proven benefits of meditation—and how to start practicing yourself
  • How to transform self-criticism into self-compassion
  • Why your mind creates habits-and how to consciously create new ones
  • Making values-driven commitments
  • Visualization and the principle of “encoding prospective memories”
  • The power of the vow
  • “Deep activation” and the danger of rejecting what is
  • Working with inner experiences as the key to making outward change
  • Six hours of breakthrough science, practical wisdom, guided exercises, and mindfulness meditations for making positive change that lasts

You can order the 6-CD set OR download the complete set at Sounds True.

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

This holiday season, help me celebrate one of my favorite non-profit organizations, ScholarMatch.

If you donate to Scholar Match through my fundraising page, your donation will be matched in full.

ScholarMatch is an organization that allows donors to support college students who need assistance paying their college tuition. The students are from the San Francisco Bay Area, and many are first-generation college students. They have been nominated by the ScholarMatch‘s community partners, such as teachers, college counselors, and college access organizations and selected by a committee to become scholars. Scholars don’t just get tuition funding. They are supported in many ways, to make sure they succeed. ScholarMatch looks out for their needs — even simple things finding a sponsor to provide winter coats to California students headed to the Midwest or East Coast. ScholarMatch also provides college readiness services to students in the 7th grade and up

ScholarMatch is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the lives of individuals and pay back the benefits we’ve received from our education. As a donor, you can specify the kind of student you want to support (e.g. intended major, interests and extracurricular activities,  college attending) or let ScholarMatch choose a specific student for you. You will be sent periodic updates about that student’s progress in school throughout that academic year. (The letters I get from my matches are funny and inspiring — they bring me right back to what it was like to be a college student, having my world views challenged and horizons broadened.)It’s fun to browse the students’ profiles. (My first donation was to support a young woman who intended to study psychology and journalism — just like I did as an undergraduate.)

I received a full tuition scholarship for four years, the only way I would have been able to afford a private university. It’s a privilege to support young students and remember with gratitude those who paid my way.

Check out this video of a ScholarMatch scholar talking with The Office’s John Krasinski (he donates!) about how the organization has helped her and her family. (The comedy starts at 3:04 — what else do you expect from Krasinski?)