Mind-Body Connection and the Joy of Movement

Have you ever wondered why listening to music when you work out gives you more power when you work out? How about when you feel more satisfied and optimistic after you do an intense exercise?

In this episode of the Live Your Personal Best podcast, I speak with Kelly McGonigal, the author of The Joy of Movement.

Listen to this episode to learn more about the joy of movement and how physical exercise can be a powerful anecdote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Episode Timeline

[1:29] Kelly explains what the mind-body connection is and why it is essential.

[5:09] Kelly shares her journey in studying hope molecules.

[8:59] Kelly describes how music can help you connect to things that are much bigger than you.

[13:07] Kelly discloses how exercise can produce different forms of pleasure.

[18:21] Kelly discloses if it’s better to do the exercises that make you feel better or do workouts because it makes you feel better.

[22:26] Kelly shares what’s the most shocking part of her book.

Key Takeaways

  • With mind-body connection, they believe that physical movement affects your mental well-being.
  • When you contract your muscles during movement or exercise, it releases hope molecules into your bloodstream that are anti-depressants. It makes you more resistant to stress and more connected to other people. This can also help you when you have depression or trauma.
  • The existence of these hope molecules points to how movement can be deeply psychological.
  • Music is an invitation to move. When you listen to music, it activates a section of your brain to move.
  • Music can help you create meaning for things in your life.
  • Music with exercise is putting the meaning around the experience that you want.
  • Different forms of movement can grant us access to other joys and pleasures.
  • Movement can also give us positive instincts that we have that are healthy.
  • There are many ways that you can enjoy movement.
  • Intensity matters when you work out.
  • Movement is social. There’s something about exercise that helps you form bonds and relationships.
  • Your brain rewards you when you think you exercise, especially when it feels that what you’re doing is meaningful.


“There’s a reason why people who struggle with depression and anxiety love exercising outdoors.” – Kelly [16:04]

“You’re allowed to be uncomfortable. You’re allowed to fail. That can be a part of a positive exercise experience.” – Kelly [21:29]

“Exercise often brings out the best of us.” – Kelly [25:09]

About the Guest, Kelly McGonigal
About the Guest, Kelly McGonigal

Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University who specializes in understanding the mind-body connection. As a pioneer in the field of “science-help,” her mission is to translate insights from psychology and neuroscience into practical strategies that support personal well-being and strengthen communities.
She is the best-selling author of The Willpower Instinct and The Upside of Stress. You might also know her from her TED talk, “How to Make Stress Your Friend,” which is one of the most viewed TED talks of all time, with over 20 million views.
Through the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism, she helped create Stanford Compassion Cultivation Training, a program now taught around the world that helps individuals strengthen their empathy, compassion, and self-compassion. 
In January 2020, Oprah Magazine honored her ability to “transform scientific data into wisdom” by naming McGonigal the first ever O! Visionary, people whose groundbreaking way of seeing the world mean a better future for us all.
Her new book, The Joy of Movement, explores why physical exercise is a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

About the Host, Emily Coffman
About the Host, Emily Coffman

Emily Coffman is the fastest-growing advocate for athlete wellness in life after sport. She is a former NCAA Division I Athlete at the University of Oklahoma in rowing.

Now, she is the creator of the top 1% health and fitness podcast, Live Your Personal Best which has over a quarter of a million downloads and best-selling author of Elite to Everyday Athlete.

Her research and focus on the health of athletes after they leave the field, has led her to become one of the leading experts for athletes to learn how to live a healthy life, enjoy working out, and find their new love of sport.