Ease the weight of the world with an earful of cheer.

By Lexi Walters Wright and Jessica Bennett
Updated July 30, 2020
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When the world feels heavy, tuning in to a podcast can feel like a release valve for some listeners. "Taking the time to yourself to indulge in hearing positive news or uplifting conversation is simple self-care during stressful times," says Jamie Nelson-Kirby, a licensed marriage and family therapist. For the 22% of Americans who listen to podcasts at least weekly, that's assuring advice.

Not sure what to play when it comes to podcasts? These seven shows are escapist and entertaining, plus they vary in length to suit your listening bandwidth. Best of all, they're chosen specifically to bolster your spirits, because we all could use some happiness in our headphones right now.

1. For When You Need Some Meaningful Connection: The Michelle Obama Podcast

In this brand-new podcast, Michelle Obama explores the relationships that shape our lives through candid conversations with the former First Lady's friends, colleagues, and family members (including the former President himself). "What I love about these conversations is that they're topics and issues that we are all dealing with, no matter what's going on," she says in the first episode, which debuted July 29. The weekly episodes will dig into a wide range of topics, including women's health, marriage, mentorship, friendship, and raising a family. So whether you're navigating the challenges of parenthood or learning to lean on friends in a tough time, this podcast is a reminder of how a little empathy and vulnerability can help ease the struggles we all face.

Listen to The Michelle Obama Podcast

2. For When You Need to Wind Down: Meditative Story

Part personal essay, part guided meditation, each episode of Meditative Story invites listeners to reflect and relax, with help. You'll hear from household names (restaurateur Danny Meyer, NPR host Peter Sagal) as well as folks you'll be glad to meet (MoMA curator Paola Antonelli, violinist Lindsey Stirling), as they share experiences from their lives that made them pause and reflect. It's a meta concept and a moving one. Periodically, host Rohan Gunatillake will pipe in: "How does this part of the story make you feel? Where in your body do you feel it?" He closes each episode with a related meditation: You'll be a limp noodle by the end, so just don't listen while driving.

Listen to Meditative Story

3. For When You're Feeling Curious: Articles of Interest

A show packed with party (and party-attire) trivia, this podcast covers all aspects of dress. "Think of it as a podcast concept album … on clothes," the show bills itself. A mini-series within the famed design podcast 99% Invisible, Articles of Interest host Avery Trufelman covers sartorial subjects like blue jeans, punk style, Hawaiian shirts, and plaid. And because all good garments have pockets, this show covers the origins of those, too.

Listen to Articles of Interest

4. For When You're Anxiously Waiting in Line: The Good News Podcast

The clever team behind favorite snarky game Cards Against Humanity produces this micro-podcast several times a week. Aimed at reminding listeners that not all news is bad, these 3- to 5-minute episodes cover positive newsy topics, including recent space exploration wins, the new record holder for the highest-altitude mammal, and eBay's unexpected ability to bring people together. It's a quick treat for your ears and psyche.

Listen to The Good News Podcast

5. For When You're Dismayed by Humanity: Kind World

Can one thoughtful but seemingly insignificant action change someone's life? The stories on this podcast from radio station WBUR in Boston prove it to be true. In less than 20 minutes, you'll hear from folks who've been on the giving and receiving ends of compliments, conversations, and unexpected gifts, the effects of which spiral way beyond their original intent. Let Kind World fuel your next year's worth of random acts of friendliness.

Listen to Kind World

6. For When You Want to Feel Empowered: Here to Slay

Writer Roxane Gay and sociologist Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom co-host "the black feminist podcast of your dreams." Listening to these two pros discuss art, society, relationships, and power is like eavesdropping on two of your smartest pals. Guests on Here to Slay are the brightest minds in entertainment, literature, and politics, among other realms. Most episodes end with a segment called "Gather," in which this dream duo offers career and love advice. You won't want it to end.

Listen to Here to Slay

7. For When You're Prepping Dinner: Gastropod

An in-depth analysis of foods and flavors, Gastropod deliciously combines science, history, and taste. Why are gin and tonics having a moment? How come fries are irresistible? Can diet halt Alzheimer's disease in its tracks? Co-hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley dish every other week on a new food-related topic. And each show averages 40 minutes, so you can fully prep, cook, and plate a meal while indulging in some feel-good entertainment.

Listen to Gastropod

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