Opening Episode: “Cat Dog and Llama Roommates”
Most people’s worlds have gotten a lot smaller in the last 15 months, and now that travel restrictions are loosening, it will take a while to readjust to wanderlust mode. This inspiring series of narratives offers first-person narratives about adventures on the road (or at sea) from people who enjoy the great outdoors of all kinds, whether they are professional mountaineers or regular listeners. Presented by Aaron Millar, a British travel writer, “Armchair Explorer” is an ideal slice of escapism if the trip is still a long way off, and useful for inspiration if you’re already planning your first getaway after a pandemic.
Opening Episode: “Signs of Life: A 53,000 Mile Bike Ride Around the World”
Nora McInerny, a podcast host and author, became a reluctant grief expert in 2014, when she lost her baby, father and husband within a few months. McInerny, who now ironically describes herself as a “remarkable widow,” channeled her grief on this compassionate and darkly hilarious podcast, where people share the unadorned truth about their darkest moments. Recent interviewees include a daughter who lost her father to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a mother whose mental illness in her son culminated in tragedy, and a 93-year-old concentration camp survivor. As dark as the subject gets, the show always has an undercurrent of hope – he’s an ideal companion as we all try to overcome multiple losses from the past year.
Opening Episode: “That’s So Chad”
Hundreds of meditation apps promise to bring peace in the palm of your hand, and Headspace is arguably the best. The soothing British voice of Andy Puddicombe, the company’s co-founder, has become familiar to millions of users as the app’s default Zen dispatcher, and in every bite-sized episode of this podcast, he explains how mindfulness it can help fight anxiety and simplify daily life. Headspace Studios released a spinoff miniseries last year, “The Yes Theory Podcast,” which explored the value of saying yes to discomfort and stepping out of your comfort zone. More recently, “Radio Headspace” has released episodes specifically geared toward navigating life after a pandemic.
Opening Episode: “The New Normal”
UFYB (not your real name)
If you’ve ever thoughtfully rolled your eyes at the concept of “life coaching,” let Kara Loewentheil change your mind. Loewentheil, a former Harvard-educated lawyer turned feminist life coach, is not selling self-empowerment cliches or courtship truisms. Instead, “Unf * ck Your Brain” offers sensible information on the ways your anxious brain could sabotage you, and practical advice on choosing different thoughts. There’s a lightness of touch to Loewentheil’s outspoken take on Mindfulness that makes it easy to absorb, and the vast library of previous episodes means you’re sure to find something that will hit you just the right way.
Opening episode: “Say no”
With so many trappings of normal life suddenly stripped away, the past year has forced many people to redefine what happiness means to them, and some of those new priorities are worth holding onto in the post-Covid world. In “The Happiness Lab,” Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos examines the pursuit of happiness through a science-based lens, often incorporating history as well. Many recent episodes have focused on the happiness lessons of the ancients, touching on Aristotle, Buddha, and Confucius and extrapolating lessons on how to live a full life in the modern age. A constantly surprising and energizing listen that will teach you something about the world and about your own brain.