Starting your day off by reading the news (or opening your Twitter feed) can be rough on your mood. Why not greet the morning with an energising, life-affirming podcast instead? You’ll likely do better at embracing the day’s challenges if you don’t begin it hating the world.
Yes, mornings are hectic, but you can listen to podcasts while you prep, and there are plenty of short shows — around 15 minutes or so — that will get you pumped without requiring your undivided attention for an hour. Weird life hacks, celebrating tiny victories, recognising the good in the world, or just closing your eyes to listen to a poem: These short shows will all make it seem like you got up on the right side of the bed, even if you didn’t.
So many positive affirmation podcasts are about inspiring you to crush the week or become the master of your own destiny. That’s intimidating. Tiny Victories invites listeners to adopt a tiny victory frame of mind. In 15 minutes, hosts Annabelle Gurwitch and Laura House celebrate the little things and reflect on those underrated wins that can boost your mood. It’s like weekly medicine — a reminder to pat yourself on the back for being honest with a friend, keeping your plants alive. They also offer advice on tiny ways to tap yourself on the back, like planning dinner and a movie or making yourself a treat. Listeners call in with their own tiny victories, which will inspire you to recognise your own. Keep your head up; Annabelle and Laura are here for you. Listen in the shower.
Twice a week on The Best Advice Show, Zak Rosen talks to people from all walks of life about the specific things they do to make their lives better. These are quirky, personal life hacks you won’t find anywhere else — like simple intimacy of touching feet with your partner, the transformation effects of acting like you’re on vacation all the time, or the therapeutic benefits of peeling grapes. Zak is a welcoming host and able to place each tip in a larger context, exploring why, exactly, these life hacks work. Listen enough, and you’ll carry away creative twists to your routine that will brighten the Monday-est of days Mondays. (You can send Zak your own advice by calling 844-935-BEST.) Episodes are always about five minutes long. Listen while making your coffee.
When you’re in a mood — the world is bad, there was no hot water, everyone is terrible — push play on Hidden Brain’s My Unsung Hero, which tells the feel-good stories not getting picked up by the disaster-focused daily news. Each episode invites a guest to tell a personal story about an act of kindness that changed their life. It will help you see the good in the world, and maybe inspire you to be someone’s unsung hero, too. Episodes are less than 15 minutes. Listen while downing a bowl of cereal.
Queen of happiness Gretchen Rubin (the bestselling author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before) has a podcast that interviews luminaries about boosting our mental health and learning how to be the best version of ourselves, and each episode includes tiny happiness hacks — texting a photo of your pet to your family, re-reading a few chapters of a children’s book, enjoying a beautiful smell (Gretchen and her co-host/little sister, TV writer Elizabeth Craft, give each other gold stars for achieving their happiness goals.) Between these big episodes are “Little Happier” episodes — three minute quickies that feel like voice memos from Gretchen, about recognising someone else’s enthusiasm or pointing out the insights we can glean from a Beatles song. Listen to them while you’re brushing your teeth.
If meditation isn’t your thing, might we recommend a poetry ritual in a better frame of mind? Twice a week on On Being Studios’ Poetry Unbound, Pádraig Ó Tuama guides us through a single poem. His lulling Irish accent is nearly ASMR-like, and if you failed poetry in high school, never fear — he spends a few minutes unpacking the poem. Featured poets run the gamut from from Richard Blanco, to Yusef Komunyakaa, to Emily Dickinson, and each episode is about 15 minutes long. Listen you’re getting dressed. (Or getting your kid dressed — if you have a toddler, you might need two episodes.)
Optimal Living Daily aggregates the best personal development, minimalism, happiness, and productivity advice from the internet and brings it straight to your ears in about 10 minutes each day. Whether it’s Rose Lounsbury’s advice on decluttering your digital life or Steve Pavlina’s trick to honouring negative predictions about your day, this advice is wheat plucked from the chaff of internet happiness hacks. Between Optimal Living Daily and its sister shows (Optimal Finance Daily, Optimal Health Daily, Optimal StartUp Daily, Optimal Relationships Daily, Optimal Living Advice, and Horoscope Daily), these guys have you covered. Listen while assembling your lunch.
They say fiction gives us empathy, and The Truth is an episodic podcast that offers short pieces of fiction in 30 minutes or less. If you don’t think fiction podcasts are your thing, let this be your gateway show. It offers a mix of sci-fi, romantic comedy, and weird mysteries, and each episode is funny (you’ll undoubtedly LOL), thoughtful, and beautifully sound-designed. Listen on your commute.
Some of the most beautiful mini-audio documentaries are over on Short Cuts, Josie Long’s haven for brief, impeccably produced stories collected from the best audio makers in the biz. Emerging creators are invited to share stories of joy, numbers, fear, detectives, embarrassment, cats…anything you can think of, and all of them quirky and engaging. Episodes are themed and run about 30 minutes but include three stories each — so if you have 10 minutes, so you can listen to one as you drink your coffee, one at lunch break, and one as you’re winding down for the day.