The Surprising Delight of Podcasts

By Haneen AlEid

There’s a particular joy in finding yourself taking a longer route home on purpose or gazing wishfully down the fruit aisle at the supermarket as you listen to someone eloquently go on and on about healing your inner child or unusual pet peeves.

With over 19.8 million UK listeners in 2021, podcasts are steadily replacing our average morning television newscast and flashy self-help book. Amid the endless directory of podcasts surfacing every day, it has never been easier to connect with thousands of perspectives about the serious, the controversial, and the wholesome. 

I hadn’t begun to listen to podcasts religiously until 2020 as I spent more time alone and, inevitably, too much time in my head. I turned to health and wellness podcasters for refuge and slowly began to work out why I was feeling lousy all the time. Episode after episode of Oprah’s Super Soul podcast reminded me to be more mindful with my time, while Eric Zimmer’s The One You Feed introduced me to a parable with which he begins each episode alongside acclaimed health practitioners and creatives:

“A grandfather is talking with his grandson. The grandfather says, ‘In life, there are two wolves inside of us which are always at battle. One is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery, and love. The other is a bad wolf which represents things like greed, hatred, and fear.’ The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, ‘Grandfather, which one wins?’ The grandfather replies, ‘The one you feed.’” 

This simple allegory is the perfect reflection of how powerful a good podcast can be. Even if we’re treating the conversation as background chatter while we complete the most mundane tasks, our unconscious minds are being fed something of value.  

Besides average health and wellness podcasts, I’m enthralled by the laidback weekly interview-style podcasts, too. Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso, for instance, is a series of intimate conversations with artists, activists, and politicians. His easygoing manner of asking acutely researched questions creates a warm virtual space where both his guests and listeners can grow. These style of podcasts tend to invite notable guests ranging from celebrities like Matthew McConaughey, musicians like Joey Bada$$, and authors like Margo Jefferson.

What’s even more compelling about this genre of podcasts is their accessibility, everyone can be a podcaster. For example, Pop star Dua Lipa’s At Your Service podcast offers a collection of conversations with her forward-thinking peers. Listening has felt like a seat at a table among British Vogue’s Editor in Chief Edward Enninful and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney. The interviews always leave you enlightened and inspired to join a wider conversation. 

When it comes to staying connected to political, social, and environmental escalations, it’s important to process events at your own pace. Podcasts allow us to pick how and when information is reported to us. This freedom to choose can substantially affect our mental health and overall motivation. Want to hear about the misrepresentation of Muslims in the media? Listen to Noor Tagouri’s Rep podcast. Interested in alt-meat developments and the price of oil? Listen to Bethany McLean’s Making a Killing. Want daily news in 27 minutes? Listen to Vox’s Today Explained. And that’s just to name a few! 

Once I started listening to career podcasts, my Gen-Z mind started to question how they were free. Grace Beverley’s Working Hard, Hardly Working shares tips on how to make our work life more fulfilling. The Tim Ferris Show digs deep into investing and breathing techniques for greater productivity. And if you’re just starting to manage your finances, you’ll find a surplus of podcasts with hundreds of episodes all dedicated to your relationship with money. Frugal living tips for fall? The answers you seek are found within Jen and Jill’s Frugal Friends Podcast. 

Managing the beginning of our careers with little to no help is difficult, especially when you have no idea how to ask for the help you need. I’ve found that listening to success stories and stories where things didn’t go to plan is crucial. It’s a hug in the dark to hear someone say, “I’ve tried that, and it was hard!” or “I’ve no clue, but I’m positive it’ll work out.”

Podcasts are far more than a coffee-run companion. In fact, I’m concerned about what 20-year-olds were doing before podcasts. How could anyone face their walk home without Brené Brown whispering in their ear to ‘dare greatly’?

Sometimes, taking the time to listen is the best thing you can do for your mind and soul.

Picth given by Leah Buist
Edited by Theerada Moonsiri