Kelly McGonigal – Be Active
Tom Bilyeu: So why is movement specifically so important to mental well-being?
Kelly McGonigal: I almost don’t even know where to begin with this. I mean you can start with the data. If you just look at the data around the world, every country you can imagine that it has been studied in, every age group, every health status, every gender, every socioeconomic status – people who are more physically active are:
- They have better relationships
- They’ve more meaning in life
- They’re less at risk for things like depression and loneliness
If you go further than just sort of that kind of epidemiology and you look at how movement affects the brain and how movement affects mental health… It’s as if humans were born to move. And when we are physically active, it puts us in a state of not just body, but of mind to be the best version of ourselves.
You know, everything from the neurochemistry of the runner’s high which makes us enjoy cooperating with other people more, and gives us hope and optimism. All the way to how, if you are regularly active you have a different brain and nervous system than people who don’t exercise. You have a brain and a nervous system that are more sensitive to pleasure and more resilient to stress.
I could literally just talk for the next hour listing the many ways but I think that the biggest takeaway is that human beings as individuals and as a species, we thrive when we are active. That our brains aren’t just housed in bodies like it’s a suitcase that’s carrying our brains around. Our brains really work best when we are in bodies that are active.
Tom Bilyeu: You actually talk about in the book how it’s quite possible that the very reason we developed large brains was to move. Give us some of the science behind that. One thing that I found in my own life was once I could understand the biological mechanisms, once I knew why things were the way that they were, it became easier not to be a slave to it. Then I sort of understood my sense of agency within the meatsuit, as it were.
So where does the hypothesis that our brains were created to move us come from?
Kelly McGonigal: Yeah. This is an idea that I feel like you can’t even explain it. This is an idea that if you look at the structure and the function of the brain, everything that humans do other than think is a form of movement. You know, communicating language, emotion expressions, labor, finding food, celebration, procreation. It’s all a physical action.
And the idea is basically other than think and ruminate and plan, that there is no other reason to have a brain except to interact with the world. And even like thinking is subservient to our ability to engage with the world.
And so basically we have a brain that scaffolds every type of interaction we have with the world which is movement. And I think it’s not even like a fancy idea. That just is true.
Cal Newport – Take Social Media Breaks
Tom Bilyeu: Some of the things you talk about the book in terms of the consequences of the way that we’re interacting with our digital devices, if you’re right about the cause, it’s pretty terrifying! And I don’t think anyone’s going to argue the sort of realities about mental health issues, about attempted, or hospitalizations due to attempted suicide. I mean it’s pretty crazy.
Cal Newport: Yeah! It really is. I mean I think it’s getting stark that having this thing (gesturing a phone) as a constant companion it’s not good for us. And what’s important about this to understand is that it’s also not fundamental. So this behavior of constantly looking at the phone – it’s not intrinsic to this technology.
In fact, we had both social media and smartphones for years before it became normal to look at your phone all the time. The reason we do that — and this is the behavior that’s causing all these issues. The reason we do that is that around the point when the major social media platforms were preparing for their IPOs, they completely re-engineered the social media experience.
So instead of it being about posting and reading your friends’ posts, it became about this steady incoming stream of social approval indicators like ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ and ‘photo tags’ and ‘comments’.
And so now you had a reason to keep going back to the phone. Because every time you hit this, there might be another reward there, another indication of social approval. None of that was in the original social media model, but they added it, because it changed it from something you checked every once in a while to something that you checked all the time and it was really hard to resist.