Words by Katie Withington
15 podcasts to plug into this year
If you’re sick of binging Netflix, or can never find the perfect position to comfortably read a book (you’re not alone), then why not try a podcast? According to a study by RAJAR, the number of people listening to podcasts has doubled from 8 per cent to 19 per cent since 2016, and we’re not surprised. Podcasts are a brilliant distraction; they can fully capture your attention if you choose to simply sit and listen, or are perfect for taking your mind of other, less interesting, activities (like housework or commuting).
With an ever-growing shelf of episodes now at your fingertips, podcasts are also ideal for dialling into new topics that really take your fancy,. From you’re a fiction fan scrolling for a heart-raising mystery or you’re looking for a much-needed dose of laughter to break up your day, there’s a plethora of vibrant new shows to dive into without having to attentively commit to turning pages or staring at a screen.
With January well under way, introducing a new wellbeing podcast into your routine can also aid in keeping your health-based resolutions inspired and realistic. Whether you’re looking to switch off a worried mind or find answers to deep questions you’ve been pondering, here are 15 health and wellness podcasts to switch onto this year.
Feel Better, Live More
“Health has become overcomplicated. I aim to simplify it.” Covering an array of healthy-living topics, Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s beloved Feel Better, Live More podcast serves fascinating medical insight all wrapped up with a warm, palatable and entertaining bow. Exploring vibrant wellbeing trends from plunge pools and outdoor swimming to delving deeper your unconscious mind, the podcast explores new ideas around health, while also delivering powerful and essential knowledge on topics like mental health, overcoming addiction, dealing with chronic pain and how to get a better night’s sleep.
The Food Medic
Hosted by author, nutritionist and medical doctor, Dr. Hazel Wallace, The Food Medic invites leading experts to share evidence-based advice on how we can live healthier lives. Cutting through the jargon, confliction and confusion online, she delves into all sorts of trending health topics, from gut health to hormones, while also addressing the impact of social media on mental health, as well as chatting diet culture, nutrition and working out. One of our favourite recent tune ins was “how to stop procrastinating and overcome self-sabotage”, an episode in which Dr. Hazel and cognitive neuroscientist and a psychological health educator, Nawal Mustafa, dissect why we play for time, imposter syndrome and how to improve your productivity day-to-day.
If you’re a regular with rain sounds and white noise, this sleep-inducing story time is the podcast for you. With a bookshelf of unique calming tales, narrated differently every episode, the podcast combines soothing storytelling with natural sounds and ambient location setting, all designed with a sounder sleep in mind. Whether you settle down to a dreamy Autumn walk in Edinburgh or or in a slumberous bookshop in Santorini, this atmospheric podcast never fails to make us fall asleep faster and deeper.
Food for Thought with Rhiannon Lambert
Transforming nutritional jargon into an accessible and approachable podcast is no small feat, yet founder of private Harley Street clinic Rhitrition and bestselling author Rhiannon Lambert does so with ease. With the goal of simplifying wellness at the heart of every track, each podcast episode will leave you feeling empowered and fully equipped with evidence-based advice on how to live healthier using the power of nutrition and fitness.
Spiraling with Katie Dalebout and Serena Wolf
To build an atmosphere for this “optimistic” anxiety podcast, you need only look at its uber-positive reviews: “insightful, comforting and heartwarming” lists just a few of its cosy accolades. Born from the online platform “Let It Out”, a safe space for sharing “soft stories “(the stories that reveal our most tender selves), Los Angeles-based writer Katie Dalebout and chef and wellness author Serena Wolf’s mission is inspiring human connection. The Spiraling
podcast follows the relatable duo’s day-to-day encounters with anxiety, from embracing uncertainty to navigating milestones, while also exploring the facets of their own mental health and how they manage it in their everyday lives.
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
Not a new suggestion, but an old favourite – Happier with Gretchen Rubin is a cult well-being classic, which has had over 95 million downloads. What began as Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project – documenting a year dedicated to making herself happier through resolutions big or small – has become a whole movement. One part of that is the podcast, in which Rubin and her sister Elizabeth offer practical advice and personal anecdotes in a quest to share happiness. From the impact of one-sentence journals to the joy of music, each episode provides a wonderful way to combat stress and anxiety with practical solutions. They even released an episode last week on ‘Coping During Covid-19 – how to stay happier and calmer in difficult times,’ and we could all do with the answers to that.
Like a massage for your brain, and ideal for listening to while you work, because there are no words for your mind to latch onto, is Radio 3’s Slow Radio. The perfect antidote to uncertain and anxious times, each episode focuses on varied sounds from all over the world. Each montage offers a window of tranquillity in the day: listen as the calls of Lapland buntings surrounding a freshwater lake in Siberia mingle with choral music. If you don’t want it to accompany you while you work, set an episode as your alarm and wake up to some of the loveliest sounds of nature to get your day off to a calm and soothed start.
While romance for the unattached has been put on the back-burner for now (unless you’re self-isolating with a new flame – and if so good luck), we could all do with a dose of love. The New York Times has turned one of its most-popular sections, which charts love stories from the astonishing to the ridiculous – always with a different slant on the elusive concept – into a brilliant podcast. These are like the very best bedtime stories. Each brings the written essay to life through familiar voices; some of the most famous actors in the world do the readings. Whether it is Greta Gerwig’s soothing voice reading ‘Sharing a Cab, and My Toes’, which begins ‘As I rode in a cab across the Brooklyn Bridge, a man I barely knew was sucking my toes …’ or the very first essay published, ‘Just Friends?’ read by Tony Hale, Modern Love shows us how universal even the most specific moments can be.
How To Fail with Elizabeth Day
A really uplifting choice, How To Fail, hosted by the author Elizabeth Day, explores why moments of failure can actually lead to ultimate success. Day brings on a stream of ostensibly self-evidently “successful” guests, and discusses key moments of their life that they consider a failure. For something so simple, the resulting conversations are tender and joyful. Some episodes are clear winners – Alain De Botton talking about death – while others are more surprisingly heart-wrenching, notably Camilla Thurlow, a former Love Island contestant, discussing the PTSD she experienced after her time working as a bomb-disposal expert. Another moving tale of love is the episode with Elle’s editor-in-chief, Farrah Storr. Her account of the start of her relationship with her husband, the novelist Will Storr – a failed first date that against the odds turned into a close friendship, growing into love through winding walks through London in the early hours of the morning – is a romantic comedy screenplay begging to be made.
Desert Island Discs
With all this social distancing, our flats and houses have started to feel a bit like desert islands. So, what better to listen to, than the stories and song choices from some of the most fascinating people over the past (almost) century – from Princess Margaret to Margaret Thatcher. Desert Island Discs is not an unexpected recommendation, but it always deserves a mention. With the most incredible archive of episodes to listen to (and new instalments still coming out each week), you won’t fear running out of them however long this lockdown may last…
A podcast dedicated to exploring both mental and physical wellbeing, Deliciously Ella follows the vast success of the Deliciously Ella recipes and cookbooks and is hosted by the husband and wife duo Ella and Matthew Mills. In each episode they welcome guests – from doctors to authors and wellness experts – to discuss relevant topics, including how to build a healthy and happy brain, how food choices affect mood, and whether morning routines can change your life.
Table Manners with Jessie Ware
Table Manners is hosted by Jessie Ware and her wonderful chef mother. The formula is simple: have a chat over a delicious three-course meal (which makes for fantastic recipe inspiration – you will want to make it all), and invite entertaining guests along the way, from musicians like Ed Sheeran and Paloma Faith to the chef and restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi and even the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. If you want to feel like you’re having a real dinner party from the comfort of your own settee – listen to it while you eat and pretend you’re there, too…
In Our Time
Fast approaching its 1000th episode, In Our Time is perfect for those who want to brush up on areas of knowledge that they’ve always wanted to learn more about but have never had the time to. Melvyn Bragg gives a crisp outline of the subject under discussion, introduces three top academics in that field, and then briskly steers the discussion for 42 minutes. The range is huge, from history to science to literature to philosophy. Expect to become unexpectedly fascinated in, say, romantic poetry or the evolution of horses – or at the very least to emerge armed with the perfect fodder for your next pub quiz.
Caroline Crampton hosts this wonderfully distracting niche podcast about Golden Age detective fiction, discussing books by the likes of Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy L Sayers. The Queens of Crime came into their own after the trauma of the First World War, so we might all find a little refined murder comforting now. Each episode focuses on a theme – recently, romance, murder at sea, and snow. They’re short – usually around 20 minutes – and at least up until the lockdown, include perfectly-chosen guests, such as Sarah Phelps on Agatha Christie. Shedunnit is cosy, but not complacent; although she clearly loves the books she talks about, Crampton is more than prepared to push back against the conventions and prejudices of the 1920s and 1930s.
“We don’t have to do life alone. We were never meant to.” Number one New York Times bestselling author Brené Brown has just launched a podcast to explore some of the deepest questions that concern us. In her own words: “I’ve spent over 20 years studying the emotions and experiences that bring meaning and purpose to our lives, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: we are hardwired for connection, and connecting requires courage, vulnerability, and conversation. I want this to be a podcast that’s real, unpolished, honest, and reflects both the magic and the messiness of what it means to be human.” One episode really worth plugging into is the second, on being heard and being seen, which tackles issues ranging from consent to sexual violence and social justice. The sole downside? The podcast only launched this month, so for now you’ll have to make do with just three episodes…
This article originally appeared in harpersbazaar.com