5 podcasts that are chicken soup for the soul
By Joy Molan
Our top picks for when you need a podcast pick-me-up from some of the most eloquent and interesting people around the world.
With the start of 2019, as in any new year, people are setting their sights to ever higher and loftier goals. Everyone I know seems to be pursuing a promotion or considering a career leap of some kind. While it is rewarding to see the people you love achieving new and exciting milestones, we’d be lying if we said our high-achieving friends didn’t inspire a pang of jealousy. Especially since the constant updates provided via IG Stories make the negative habit of comparison more regular and accessible than ever before.
Reflecting on this, I remembered how podcasts helped to temper my self-doubt in 2018. The intimacy of this medium, coupled with the personal stories offered up by its makers, give listeners the sensation that they are getting their very own pep-talk from some of the most eloquent and interesting people around the world. If you’re feeling less than confident about the year ahead, here are five shows that might come in handy over the coming months:
1. When you just want to hear something uplifting for once....Happy Place
You probably remember Fearne Cotton as the host of Top of the Pops during your tween years, but she’s reinvented herself as a podcasting queen, ready to serve up some home truths for her now grown-up Gen Z audience. At first, the name made me wary - I thought I’d be in for a Goop-esque, jargon-heavy wellness podcast. But my preconceptions couldn’t have been more wrong. In each episode, Fearne interviews celebrities who have overcome adversity and gone on to lead successful, fulfilling lives. Interviewees include Gok Wan, who speaks candidly about his experience growing as part of an ethnic minority, and his subsequent battles with anorexia. As the Financial Times accurately summarises, “Happy Place is less about self-help platitudes than honest, no-nonsense and engaging conversation about dealing with life’s challenging moments”.
2. When you’re in the mood for learning...The Modern Mann
Packed full of helpful life advice and uplifting features, this podcast covers everything from ‘top tips to run a successful meeting’, to conversations with an inner-city vicar managing a diverse congregation; some reliant on food banks, others living in million-pound homes. The podcast host is the delightfully funny and insightful Olly Mann, who treats every subject with great warmth and empathy. This show offers stories of human resilience, enlightenment and love - all a much-needed escape from the pressures of unrealistic New Year’s resolutions and friends’ social media grandstanding.
3. When you’re looking for life-affirming stories...Soul Music
As a self-confessed lover of train crying (if you know, you know), I am a fan of any story that puts a lump in my throat - especially when it’s accompanied by some of the most beautiful songs ever written. Soul Music is a BBC Radio 4 podcast that explores the importance of famous songs to the lives of people across the world. We hear from missionaries in Africa discussing the significance of The Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’ and survivors of the AIDs epidemic discussing the power of Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’. This is the perfect podcast when you need your faith in humanity restored.
4. For sleepless nights...Josie Long’s Short Cuts
When anxiety reaches fever-pitch, trying to fall asleep can seem like the hardest task in the world. Thanks to a demanding day job and the pressures that come from living in a major city, I’ve spent many nights tossing and turning while trying to block out the worries and frustrations of the day. One podcast that is the perfect antidote to sleepless nights is Short Cuts. These 30-minute episodes are described as ‘short documentaries and adventures in sound’, all narrated by the hypnotically softly-spoken Josie Long. Perhaps a better blurb would be, “short bedtime stories told in the most calming voice ever”.
5. For greater confidence in doing things your own way...Stylelikeu
The YouTube channel Stylelikeu, known for championing the inspiring stories of people with uniquely personal style, now allows us to listen to each interview in podcast form. Interviews range from conversations about ageism, gender identity and artistic expression through to motherhood, each one sparked by the discussion of self-expression through clothing.
Image by Alessandra Piemontese