“Headline stress disorder” — it’s a thing. Coined by Washington Post psychologist Steven Stosny to describe the collective unease we feel helplessly watching the news. Fast-forward to 2020, and the news has not felt this worrying in my lifetime – a fascinating podcast can help.
It’s useful, interesting, and even responsible to stay updated on current affairs. I like to catch the bare minimum. Beyond that doesn’t make for a happy life — research shows watching the news negatively impacts our mental well-being.
Instead of worrying, I joined the podcast party in lockdown. I find it inspiring to hear what some of the world’s greatest interviewers and their subjects have to share in life stories; the workings of the world and our potential future. Often in a far more honest, astute and creative way than the average politician, and in 30–90 minutes.
As blog posts provide an insightful break from mainstream news when you want decent topical reading material; high-quality podcast episodes make great walking, tidying or cooking companions if you live alone (or need a break from your housemates!).
Wildly successful author, entrepreneur and investor Tim Ferriss’ well-established podcast ranks at the top of the business charts. It has amassed over 500m downloads interviewing fellow great minds on a vast range of holistic topics. These include mental well-being, investing, personal growth and sustainability. Ferriss is intimate with the likes of PayPal Founder Peter Thiel; best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell; spiritual thought-leader Jack Kornfield; and actor Jamie Foxx.
Pandemic-era episodes include an excellent, practical overview of “Tactics for Relationships in Quarantine” with top couples’ therapist Esther Perel. I enjoyed Ferriss’ discussion with best-selling author and entrepreneur Ryan Holiday on mental resilience and stoicism during the crisis. He also shares his popular 2016 Ted Talk on “Fear Setting” — an exercise to avoid analysis paralysis during difficult decision-making.
Tim’s intelligent questioning and futurist insights, personable manner, and thoughtful guests are welcome rays of insight during hard times.
Vishen Lakhiani is the “entrepreneur, author and activist” founder of MindValley. A world-renowned wellness umbrella for an online personal development platform and A-Fest conference. Lakhiani has a “a 20-Year plan to upgrade humanity” through initiatives in education, health and working culture. I agree with his belief that society is at a turning point. We can no longer focus purely on short-term profits. Prioritizing the well-being of humanity, and the rest of the species we share this planet with, is necessary to thrive (and even survive). This comes across in his podcast as a key motivation for his endeavors.
Lakhiani’s interview manner is an endearing fusion of confidence and vulnerability, wisdom and humility. I enjoyed life-upgrading tips on “How to Create a Bright Mind” and “Find Inner Piece” during lockdown; and “5 Lessons that coronavirus can teach us”. Lakhiani procures a line-up of some of the world’s leading lights from areas like spirituality; top human performance; relationships and health. Including Steven Kotler, sports superstars and Emily Fletcher. These give insights into making positive steps to being the best version of ourselves across many areas.
Award-winning British-American documentary filmmaker, journalist and author Louis Theroux’s unassuming interview technique is world-renowned. Twenty years ago, Theroux launched his acclaimed BBC Two television series, “When Louis Met…”. He explored personal details of some of the world’s most interesting characters (including cult leader, porn stars, and tiger kings). Theroux’s fascinating experiences and network enliven his new (and first) podcast series.
BBC Radio 4 commissioned Theroux’s series of interviews from lockdown, with “high-profile people he’s been longing to talk to . This is a “fascinating mix of the celebrated, the controversial and the mysterious.”. Two of my favourite episodes have been his interview with actor and leading “Me Too” activist Rose McGowan; and his discussion with campaigner and actor Sir Lenny Henry. It’s great to press an ear up to what some of the world’s most unusual people are doing and feeling in lockdown; alongside some of their most interesting tales from the “old normal”.
Neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris’ interview manner is nowhere near as intimidating as his resume. His accolades include New York Times bestselling author and creator of top meditation app Waking Up. This award-winning Making Sense podcast explores clever questions (and answers) on society; the human mind; and current affairs.
During the coronavirus crisis, the Making Sense series intelligently covered unknowns with world-renowned experts. Often discussing ideas at depths that mainstream politicians and news outlets dare not go. An episode with Yale Professor Paul Bloom discusses a range of thought provoking topics. These include “the false trade off between the economy and public health, putting a price on human life”; and “the long term effects of the pandemic”. Harris’ recent practical interviews on “The New Future of Work”; “Social Cohesion is Everything”; and “The Science of Happiness”: are expansive. If you’re frustrated with a lack of well thought out info, Making Sense provides glimpses into the world’s post COVID-19 future.
Another fresh series, hosted by Niraj Shah — co-founder (with me) of mental well-being business Mind: Unlocked. Shah’s corporate career flipped upside-down when he suffered a stroke aged 30. Now fully recovered, he turned a serious health scare into his passion for meditation; mindset; and health optimization.
Through his leadership role at TransTech Lab Europe; and years on the London wellness scene — he led an iconic meditation session on a closed-down Tower Bridge in 2019; Shah accumulates fascinating friends to discuss cutting-edge mental well-being tactics with. He is also an accomplished speaker; often featured as a star meditation and bio-hacking expert at wellness conferences.
The first handful of episodes include interviews with a former Google productivity expert; ex-Olympic athlete; and a leading UK psychotherapist turned entrepreneur. They discuss everything from optimizing sleep, transforming your habits and the effects of social media on our body image. If you’ve been feeling a little off during lockdown (haven’t we all), this podcast offers actionable and motivating pick-me-up ideas.
You can catch all of these uplifting podcasts at their own sites, or apps like Spotify or Apple Podcasts. I hope they give you as many smiles as they have for me during these strange, uncertain times. Feel free to contact me with questions or comments here.