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How do Love and Friendship Impact Your Health? (ep. 180)

Dr. Kelli Harding

John O’Leary is joined by Dr. Kelli Harding, author of The Rabbit Effect, on how love and friendship impact our health on the Live Inspired Podcast.

Today, we’ll discuss groundbreaking research that illustrates how love, friendship, environment and a sense of purpose have a greater impact on our health than the care we receive from our doctors. Astounding – and true!

Dr. Kelli Harding joins us to share about her new book The Rabbit Effect which makes a compelling case for treating others with kindness and living inspired (hey, your health depends on it!). Don’t miss this fun, warm and life-changing conversation.

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  • As a child, Kelli loved science + helping others which led her to pursue medicine.
  • During medical school, Kelli became intrigued with what was going on inside the body and the environment it was surround by and how that affected health.
  • The Rabbit Effect: Dr. Robert Nerem’s experiment involving genetically similar rabbits fed the same high-fat diet inspired Kelli because the kindness + company of a lab researcher kept one group healthier.
  • Bella + Daisy: One paper, Bella is on death’s door yet is functioning well when you meet her whereas Daisy is not thriving but it can’t be explained with standard tests.
  • “Our social world is changing our biology.”
  • The power of touch: A growing body of research shows that hugs and physical touch are protective towards illness.
  • “A faithful friend is the medicine of life.” – Ecclesiasticus proverb
  • Kelli shares how telomeres, the “caps” to our DNA, protect our DNA and interplay with our social environment.
  • Find ways to boost your connection to your community and buffer how stress affects you to live a happier, healthier life.
  • Learn to recognize that stress isn’t necessarily bad, it’s how you respond to it.
  • Navigate stress by meditating, exercising, building meaningful connections, practicing kindness and having a sense of purpose.
  • “The goal isn’t to live forever. It’s to live well within the days that are given.”
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences: The higher your ACE score increases your risk for diseases causing long-term health effects decades later.
  • Kelli emphasizes the important of Post Traumatic Growth and finding opportunities to grow from the experiences that happened to us.
  • “True health is hidden in the million tiny moments of everyday life.”
  • “People are just a collection of tissue, of muscle, of ligament and of bone. Expect of course, they’re not.”
  • Get Dr. Kelli Harding’s The Rabbit Effect here.

If you enjoyed learning about Post Traumatic Growth, you’ll love hearing from Live Inspired guest Michaela Haas. Michaela shares how her research can lead overcome trauma and lead to a deeper understanding of strength. Listen to Michaela Haas on ep. 4 here.


1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck.

2. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today? I have to work on being silly. I have a good sense of humor but think I can lighten up a little more.

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? Handwritten letters from my grandmother.

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? My husband or my mother.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Institutions don’t love you back so dedicate your time to things that are important but at the same time it’s the people that are important.

6. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? When you have the choice, show up. Work is important but think about your relationships and the important things in life.

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? She celebrated the light.


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