If you feel like your head’s spinning with everything going on in the world (or maybe just yours), you’re not alone. It’s fair to say that mental health has taken a beating over the last year and change. And not just in the US — where psychologists say they’re now treating more people with anxiety and depression than before the pandemic — but around the world. So it’s no wonder you might need an escape. And podcasts can be a great vehicle for doing that.
So what are the best podcasts for mental health?
It depends on the listener. Studies have shown that a good story (especially a suspenseful one) will boost oxytocin levels in the brain, which lowers stress and anxiety. So cue up that true-crime podcast that immerses you in the scene. If you’re looking for something lighter, turn to the funny. Comedy podcasts can help your brain make endorphins — aka “feel-good” chemicals — every time you laugh. And then there are podcasts that guide you through meditations or share advice from psychologists. All with your mental health in mind. Bonus points if you listen on the go. Because getting active increases endorphins, and endorphins make you happy.
Here’s what HQ’rs listen to when they need a mental health boost. #Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.
Hosted by Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos, this podcast draws from scientific research and expert advice to give listeners actionable tips for making their lives happier. Hint: It’s not always what your brain tells you is best. One tip we found helpful: If you ever feel like someone doesn’t like you, check yourself by saying, “The story I’m telling myself is…” Calling your own feelings out could help you identify when you’re projecting your own anxieties.
It’s the mystery for us. But also the comedic relief. This true-crime podcast dives into historical and modern-day cases with humor and wit from comedian hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. It’s so popular that it’s amassed a cult following — called “Murderinos.” Hear about: Matilda Scheurer, an artificial flower maker who died “accidentally” in 1861 from arsenic poisoning (the chemical was inside the powder she used to color flowers, and was also used on dresses and hair ornaments). And the shooting death of Michael Jordan’s father, James Raymond Jordan Sr.
Yerrr. Before they landed a series on Showtime, the Bronx’s Desus and Mero tuned in weekly to comment on pop culture, society, and recent news in a hilarious — sometimes raunchy — show. Which, by the way, is mostly unscripted. Think: two of the funniest guys in your neighborhood hanging out on a stoop.
Experts say you should stop checking your phone first thing in the morning. But we’re willing to argue this podcast would be the exception. These short, guided meditations hosted by hypnotherapist Chel Hamilton will help you start the day off right. Whether that’s by lowering your anxiety, boosting your confidence, or clearing your mind.
This podcast will take you back to your “Reading Rainbow” days with short stories read by the man himself. Nostalgia, activate. Each of the fictional stories will transport you from the daily grind. And they come from authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Shirley Jackson, and Barbara Jenkins. Bow down.
Psychologist Dr. Joy Harden Bradford breaks down stigmas surrounding mental health, often with the help of another expert. It covers topics like finding the right therapist, understanding psychiatric medications, and connecting with your identity. And there’s also plenty about reproductive health, parenting and relationships, and healing from trauma.
From what’s going on in the minds of animals to where the five stages of grief came from, to stories of great falls (like going over the edge of Niagara Falls and cats falling off roofs), this profound podcast goes deep into subjects around science, philosophy, and politics. Some episodes will make you think about the bigger picture in life (and give you perspective about whatever’s dragging you down). While others will feel like a warm hug.
The Hardcore Self-Help Podcast with Duff the Psych
Dr. Robert Duff is here to help. And many of his episodes include responses to listeners’ questions. Like how to avoid passing down generational trauma to your kids, when to take suicidal thoughts (whether your own or someone else’s) seriously, and recognizing depression. He sounds like a great friend.
If you’re curious enough to go down the rabbit hole, this podcast is for you. Covering everything random from why the alphabet is ordered that way to why it’s a ‘thing’ in Tokyo to have a mascot for everything. But their main focus is architecture and design. Like why movie theaters got so big and why there’s so much pressure to have the ‘perfect’ wedding dress.
This podcast from Betches Media reminds us of a regular-degular conversation we’d have with friends about topics like our relationships with food, body image, and mental health in general. Many times including expert voices. Think: weight stigma in health care, the realities of acceptance and closure, and dealing with jealousy.
From the murder of Laci Peterson to the deaths of teen true-crime fans who left clues on their phone, this podcast covers everything from cold cases to serial killer stories to lesser-known investigations. It’s one way to escape the day-to-day. And with many cases, hosts Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat will offer resources for listeners to support the families of victims.
Podcasts are a great way to forget all the things weighing you down. But they’re also good for helping you build the strength to pick those things up. Go, you.
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