In the early days of radio, people could only listen to news and shows via airwaves. Today even with all the streaming programming available for viewing shows, people are once again flocking to listen to the hottest new-ish medium of podcasts.
There is something deeply personal that takes place when we focus and listen to the voices of others. With the other senses disengaged, we can better hear and digest the words and ideas.
If you get your share of political and true-crime podcasts and need a dose of positive instead, here are my top 5 recommendations. Open your ears to these podcasts for helpful wellbeing inspiration and a sense of hope, too.
1. How to Build a Happy Life: A production of The Atlantic, this podcast delivers just what the title describes; tools for your pursuit of happiness. Host Arthur Brooks interviews experts about subjects related to the search for happiness. Ironically some topics are tough ones, but we can’t have joy unless we understand the role of suffering in life.
Brooks is a gentle interviewer who walks with each topic as our understanding friend. We are at once informed and invited to think about ourselves and our human experience with fresh eyes (or should I say ears?).
2. Modern Love: I learned about Modern Love by way of the series of the same name that premiered on Amazon Prime Video. The stories for the series came from selected stories featured in a weekly column that’s appeared in the New York times for 16 years.
The podcast harvests best story submissions as well. In each episode, a story is read, and then there is also an interview with the contributor. Each episode reveals a powerful and personal insight about Love and human experience that always leaves me feeling a lift.
I recommend “Ncuti Gatwa Reads Why Can’t Men say I Love You to Each Other?” The episode will help you rethink what it is to be masculine and express Love in our society.
The production of Modern Love offers beauty for the ear, too. Audio readings and interviews mesh together with music and other sounds to envelop you as you listen.
3. The Moth Radio Hour: I’ve been a long-time fan of The Moth when I stumbled onto it more than a decade ago. Since 1997, The Moth’s mission has been to “promote the art and craft of storytelling and to honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience.”
Thus far, the program has delivered. The Moth StorySLAM conducts open-mic storytelling competitions mainly in the United States, based on a theme.
Many of the SLAM stories are then shared on The Moth Podcast. The Moth Radio Hour features the best of these stories and additional details about the storytellers and their experience as presenters.
There are so many stories that leave me on the edge of my seat. I always come away from hearing a story with a sense of awe about life.
All storytellers are recorded while delivering their story to a live audience, so you get that added sense of being at the event. And each storyteller has rehearsed and prepared their story, so they are always well-told.
4. Heavyweight: Humorist Jonathan Goldstein hosts this podcast. In each episode, Jonathan chats with a person who has a problem, then he and that person work to find a resolution.
The problems are unique and yet universal. Goldstein helps people with issues such as finding a person they’ve not seen for decades or cultivating closure for a mistake they made in the past. In one episode, Jonathan even helps a friend retrieve a CD he’d loaned to someone who has since become famous.
Goldstein’s self-deprecating humor is what makes each episode a delight. Sometimes the problems are funny, and other times quite deep. Often the journey to resolution takes surprising and poignant turns.
For many stories, solving a problem requires unique creativity, and sometimes the definition of closure has to shift.
The brilliance of Heavyweight is in Jonathan’s style of interviewing. He easily cultivates a banter with his guests that is authentic, and each story unfolds, delivering warmth.
My only complaint about Heavyweight is that I power through episodes, and then I’m forced to wait months for a new season. If you’ve not heard of this podcast yet, you’re soooo lucky because you can go back and listen to all of them from the beginning.
5. Terrible, Thanks for Asking: When you’re having a difficult time in life, experiencing a loss, feeling wounded, that’s when an understanding friend is so important.
Nora McInerny as host of TTFA, is just that kind of person you can lean in and listen to for encouragement. She knows something about loss. In 2014, her husband died of cancer, she suffered a miscarriage, and her father passed away within a few months.
The podcast was her answer to helping herself and others navigate the gaping hole of suffering. As McInerny explains, TTFA is about having the big talk about death and coming through trauma.
We're in this together
We are just and only human. Remembering we feel better when we deal with what is in our control is a great step to feeling better. Become part of the humbly human movement and wear it with pride.