From laughs to life lessons, these aural uplifters are guaranteed to put a smile on your face
By Tom Nicholson
It might sound obvious, but when we’re bouncing through our lives every day it’s easy to forget to carve out time to just do stuff that makes you happy.
So we’ve pulled together some podcasts that are guaranteed to make you feel good. Some will make you laugh, some will make you feel like you’re hanging out with friends, and some pop happiness's hood and have a good rummage around inside.
Yale professor Dr Laurie Santos teaches a class called Psychology and the Good Life, and she knows as much as there is to know about the latest science and research on how to deal healthily with big, painful feelings – of burnout, of grief, of guilt, of anxiety – which can leech happiness from your day to day. Along with authors and therapists, she unpicks exactly where these feelings come from, why they exist, and how getting to know them properly can help you find lasting happiness.
Hanging out again with the staff at Dunder Mifflin kept a lot of us going over the last couple of years. But if you can’t really rationalise a fifth run through it from the start, you can still slip back into The Office in the company of the show’s resident dim bulb and chilli dropper, Kevin. Brian Baumgartner and his fellow cast members, crew and showrunners amble amiably through the making of Scranton, Pennsylvania’s most celebrated cultural export. It’s like getting into a nice warm bath.
Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place isn’t your usual celebrity interview pod. The guestlist runs from a slightly eclectic mix of the usual great and good (Johnny Marr, Holly Willoughby, Dr Jane Goodall) to the even more esoteric; there aren’t many massive podcasts which would seek out a man who lived for 17 years as a monk in the forests of Thailand. What links all of these guests, though, is that they’ve been through life experiences which shed a little more light on what it takes to be happy.
Nothing feels quite as satisfying as hitting your goals, but it can be a bit of a grind getting there. BBC Breakfast host Louise Minchin, who’s a keen triathlete herself, gets the inside track on how to keep yourself positive and on target from people who’ve gone above and beyond to get to the top of their games. England women’s footballer Steph Houghton, big wave surfer Andrew Cotton and New Zealand rugby’s manager for leadership Gilbert Enoka all drop by to share their thoughts.
Ed Gamble and James Acaster’s fantasy food chat podcast just keeps rolling on. Each time, a guest enters the ‘dream restaurant’ and is challenged by Acaster’s genie waiter to run down their favourite starter, main, drink, side and dessert. Start with The Inbetweeners’ Joe Thomas, then listen to Bob Mortimer’s love of eating corned beef in the car. You'll even learn why Claudia Winkleman never, ever, ever drinks water.
This long-running pod comes in a few different forms: there are 40-minute deep dives in which Rubin and her sister Elizabeth chat to writers and experts about how to be happier; 20-minute More Happier episodes; and breezy, snack-sized A Little Happier minisodes. It’s big on straightforward tips for nurturing and noticing happiness in your day to day life. Brisk and practical.
Usually when something gets called ‘life-affirming’ it means ‘quite nice, and Tom Hanks was involved’. But Soul Music is properly life-affirming: weird and beautiful and funny and consolatory and lovely. Three or four people from all walks of life talk about a single piece of music – which could be anything from 'The Lark Ascending' to Toto’s ‘Africa’ – and how it touched them and changed their lives in some way. Indescribably uplifting.
Poppy Jamie’s upbeat pod is a kind, open-hearted look at the big questions: how do you make love last? What’s the best way to look after your brain? What are we going to do to save the world? To find some answers, Jamie turns to doctors, academics, psychologists, wellness practitioners and counselors. It’s as much about the spiritual as it is about the physical, and takes a holistic, 360-degree approach to happiness.
Social Chain founder, Dragon and all-round success story Steven Bartlett corrals some of the world's most inspirational people to find out what makes them tick, and how you can steal some of their secrets. Alongside the business leaders and pop stars, He also goes deep with happiness experts, from monk-turned-podcaster Jay Shetty, to psychologist-turned-author Dr Julie Smith, and even footballer-turned-tearjerker Patrice Evra. Plus, Steven's a passionate Hueligan, which always makes us smile.
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