How to get more joy from the things you love.
Guru gives an update, then leads an insightful Q&A with psychologist and best-selling author Kelly McGonigal.
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Jeremy was joined by Guru on today’s Up To Speed Live. They offered the following updates:
- Verizon Media: We’re continuing to deliver exciting live events for consumers and continuing to help society by offering info and tips in areas like mental health, including our “Reset Your Mindset” series, featuring live-streamed wellness discussions with entertainment, health and business thought-leaders. It kicks off at 4PM ET/1PM PT Wednesday, May 20, on Yahoo Life, and continues at the same time on May 27 on Yahoo Finance.
- David Turner has three full-time jobs: Project manager within Verizon Business and a volunteer police officer with the Wiltshire Police Force in the United Kingdom. As we celebrate Armed Forces Day in the U.S. tomorrow, we thank all those who serve and have served.
- Check out the full story on Deb Geno-DeSantis who is part of the Verizon Business Group and how she is adjusting to the new ways of working.
Guru was joined by Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist who specializes in understanding the mind-body connection. She is the best-selling author of The Willpower Instinct and The Upside of Stress. Her latest book, The Joy of Movement, explores why physical exercise is a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
Guru: You talk in your book about making stress your friend. How do we do that?
It’s impossible to avoid stress, but it’s not inherently bad. When something you care about is at stake, your stress response can give you the energy you need to meet the challenge, or the push you need to reach out to others. The key is to learn how to harness your natural stress strengths.
My life used to be about working with large groups, and my work was always about the benefits of being together physically. Now I work to create authentic connections via video. We can’t rely on what we’re used to as human beings, but we can ask people to share sides of themselves that we don’t always see. For example, we recently asked each participant in an online class to share an object that means a lot to them. It helps us bring our whole selves into this moment.
Guru: How do you get yourself into that positive mode?
It’s basically a mindset reset to avoid destructive feelings and to then cultivate things like music, which is one of the most powerful positive emotional triggers. Lyrics can remind you of memories, your own strengths, or feelings of gratefulness. In three minutes you can experience a total reset.
Guru: How can physical exercise help with anxiety?
There are immediate and long term benefits. The first hit is dopamine and adrenaline. Then, if you exercise longer, you’ll get a burst of chemicals in the brain. They also enhance pleasures, so anything that could feel good will feel even better. It also primes you for social connection so that you’ll get added pleasure from things like conversations with strangers or friends, be it work or play.
Guru: What would you say to those who have never enjoyed physical exercise?
You don’t have to worry about getting into great physical shape. It’s just about moving for at least three minutes, and even better, up to 20 minutes. Then you’ll be teaching your brain to regulate those feelings and make your brain more emotionally resilient. You can even become more open to feelings of joy. Spending time with loved ones, eating food, all will feel better because your brain is more responsive.
Guru: Talk to us about how physical exercise can reduce depression.
It’s been studied around the world that becoming more physically active can help people with depression. This should be in addition to everything else that supports you. The biological insight is that when you exercise your muscles make chemicals that are identical to antidepressant medications. They are like a pharmacy that is always with you. Scientists call them “hope molecules” and they can help your brain be more resilient to stress.
Movement can change the way you feel about yourself. You learn that you can deal with discomfort and that you can change and grow. Movement becomes a metaphor and changes the story about who you are. Those stories can be really hard when you’re in a challenging situation, like a job loss or a pandemic. You’ve learned through running or holding a yoga pose that you can take a breath and make it through.
Guru: How is this different during this time, when we are socially distancing?
This is such a challenge for me personally. One way you can harness this now is that even if you exercise on your own you still become a different version of yourself for a few hours, and you’ll be able to get more out of every interaction if you’ve created this brain state that exploits our ability to connect.
It also creates a synchronizing effect in which you feel more connected to those who you move together with. I’ve encouraged people to lean in to virtual movement and connections. Even if you move with an avatar synched to someone else’s avatar, research shows there are still benefits.
Guru: Being in nature is powerful. How and why is that?
There is something about being active in nature that has a similar effect on the brain as doing hours of meditation. All of that inner chatter which can cause anxiety and stress is quieted. You are more connected to the present moment via the rich sensory stimulus outdoors. It’s both calming and empowering because there is a unity sensation, connecting you to life itself and a greater sense of peace in what your role is in the greater story of life on this planet.
Meditation can be hard to learn but there are many benefits to it. Being in nature can train your mind to be better suited to meditation, and you can tap into that relief quicker.
Guru: Sometimes it is nice to be in nature and just zone out.
It’s not zoning out as much as tuning in. Turn your focus from listening to seeing to feeling the breeze on your skin. That tuning in creates the powerful mood changes.
Guru: What advice do you have for people who don’t like exercise in any form?
Lots of people think they hate it because it has been defined for them as something that hurts and has to be competitive. Instead, think of it as being about experiencing all of the benefits that it can bring. It’s good to associate it with something you already love, like playing music or having a dance party. Movement gives us greater access to things we already love. Think about the active version of things you love. Think about who you want to be at this time. I’ve been doing a lot of kickboxing and punching which feels so empowering right now. It makes me feel strong in the face of this scary situation.
Guru: You mention that compassion is natural but also competes with other basic human needs.
Compassion can be defined as a witness to pain or suffering, so you have to notice it, feel you have the resources to respond, and then do something. It strengthens your feelings of connection. It requires courage, so you might witness something but you become afraid or sad because you don’t feel brave enough or supported enough to act. Or the problem may feel so big that your brain will force you to not pay attention to protect you. To avoid this, think “What is a single action I can take to help people in my community? What will help with the wellbeing of the people around me?” Choose one thing for you and one thing for your loved ones. It only works when everyone is doing their part and everyone is open to receiving the help.
Guru: Final thoughts?
The biggest surprise in researching the joy of movement, whether I was talking to an ultramarathoner or someone in a dance class, is that the greatest joy is the feeling of interdependence, to help and support others as well as to be helped and supported by others.
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