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Your Greatest Retirement Asset Could Be Your Attitude

The Mind-Body Connection and The Rabbit Effect – Kelli Harding, M.D.,MPH

In this episode of our retirement podcast, our guest is Dr. Kelli Harding, author of The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier With the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness. 

Is there anything more important than your health and wellness? Most books for retirement focus on financing retirement and health care, which are important topics. If you want to retire smarter, you have to go beyond that. The Rabbit Effect is not a retirement book per se, but it offers recommendations, based on research, on how you can enhance your overall wellness by being mindful of hidden factors, like compassion and kindness.

We discuss with Kelli Harding:

  • How the scientific research on compassion and kindness changed how she viewed medicine
  • Why the Mind-Body connection and hidden factors affect health
  • The role of relationships and social ties to health
  • The long-term consequences of seemingly small decisions like compassion and choices we make – do acts of kindness matter?
  • The importance of cultivating a sense of purpose
  • The ripple effect of compassion and kindness
  • Her recommendations on how to start to make mindful daily choices that matter to your wellness


Kelli Harding, MD, MPH, is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. She is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, as well as boarded in the specialty of psychosomatic (mind-body) medicine. Harding has spent much of her career in the emergency room at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She has also served nationally on the Association of American Medical Colleges Board of Directors, which leads the academic medicine community to improve the health of all.

Harding is also the author of  “The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness”. She has appeared as an expert source for media outlets including Today, Good Morning America, NPR, The New York Times, Medscape,, Parents, and US News & World Report.

Wise Quotes

On Hidden Factors that Influence Health

“Here’s the really shocking statistic – we know that lifestyle factors are important and we know that medical care and access to quality medical care is absolutely critical for every human being. But it probably only accounts for about 10 to 20% of our overall health status. And the rest of it has to do with our social world and all these hidden factors in our homes, relationships, communities, workplaces, schools that we need to be talking and addressing that we often don’t think about, as health.”

“So for listeners, if there is one thing that you can invest in for your health, it’s building positive relationships – and this pans out in multiple studies. In fact, the longest running study ever, which has been done out of Harvard, shows that the number one predictor of somebody’s health is actually positive relationships.”


On Inflammation, Stress and Support

“So, probably the big culprit, and I talk a lot about this in the book, is inflammation…We know that inflammation has been linked with depression and anxiety and other things. And it’s interesting because some of the medicines that we use to treat those illnesses that we didn’t fully understand. We know from clinical trials that they work, but we didn’t know how they worked and it seems to be a common pathway among many of them that they’re anti-inflammatory. And what’s interesting about that is we might be looking at sort of like a underlying cause of all illness, which is, as a clinician, quite exciting. But then the other question is how, what can you do to try to reduce that? And a major pathway through that is our stress levels. And stress is something that happens to all of us. But a big piece of it that we can control that’s really exciting is how we deal with stress. And you know, that’s where there’s so much opportunity for training and coaching and thinking through how we navigate life’s challenges. And I think that’s what’s really exciting cause it validates so much of the work that people who are working in coaching and in wellness and in so many of the ways that we support one another, why it works too and why it helps us feel better too.”


Read Kelli’s Book:

The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier With the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness on Amazon

Two Studies Mentioned in the podcast:

The Harvard Study (Grant Study)

Association Between Life Purpose and Mortality Among US Adults Older Than 50 Years

(University of Michigan)

The Rabbit Effect is on our list of the Best Books on Retirement. We find that many of them are not explicitly about planning for retirement – and they can help you retire smarter.


Related Podcast Episode:

What Can We Learn from Blue Zones? – Richard Eisenberg

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