Based on the popular advice column of the same name, Dear Sugar Radio is hosted by the original Sugar columnists, Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild) and Steve Almond. It follows an advice column format - readers send in (heartbreaking) letters and Strayed and Almond reply with incredible empathy and insight. From the tricky (weight and romance) to the downright taboo (mothers who detest motherhood), the Sugars tackle everything with an unparalleled sense of compassion and wisdom. Even if the topics themselves aren’t relevant to you, you’ll learn from the way Strayed and Almond respond to the lonely, sad, searching souls who write to them. It’s not all doom and gloom, though: Almond and Strayed have a great rapport and humour to boot - useful when you’re answering everything from, “why does bad sh*t keep happening to me?” to “why are my in-laws so annoying?”
Start with: Episode 28, When Bad Things Happen
If Dear Sugar is your podcast therapist, Happier is your podcast teacher, giving you a blueprint for happier life. Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, Happier at Home and Better than Before, is a writer who studies happiness. Her sister and co-host, Elizabeth Craft, is a TV writer who adds a side of cynicism and dry wit to Rubin’s type-A giddiness. iTunes called this podcast one of the best of 2015, and it’s easy to see why - the sisters have an easy, witty rapport as they discuss strategies they use and recommend (or don’t) that’ll make you happier. The best thing about their approach is that it’s not one-size-fits-all: Rubin has identified four “habit tendencies”, and once you figure out which one you are, you’ll see how you can make new habits stick for good.
Start with: Episode 29, The Fantasy of Perfection
Australian slow living advocate Brooke McAlary hosts this charming, informative podcast about how to slow down, live more fully and figure out what you really want from life. McAlary began her blog, slowyourhome.com, four years ago when she was diagnosed with post-natal depression. She realised she needed to get to grips with what she wanted from life, so began a process of living with less. Her podcasts are no-frills (in keeping with theme!), plain-spoken and matter-of-fact, but they’re also fun and lively. With episodes on mindful eating, minimalism and zero waste living, it focuses on ways you can slow down, make more meaningful choices and live a happier, healthier life. If you’re at all skeptical about slow living, know this: Brooke and her family (including two children) take afternoon naps every weekend. Sign me up.
Start with: Episode 20, Kelly Exeter on white space and deliberate inefficiencies
With just six episodes so far, this is a podcast to watch (or listen. You get the idea). Short enough for your commute (around 20 minutes) but long enough to be deeply infused with heart, each episode tells a unique story of an ordinary person changing their life in an extraordinary way. Don’t worry: it’s not about corporate types ditching 9-to-5 to open their own yoga retreats. These changes are profound and beautiful and by listening to their stories, you’ll learn that the human spirit can survive just about anything (even yoga retreats).
Start with: Episode 2, The Dinner Date (have tissues handy)
Other podcasts to download for happiness
The Partially Examined Life, for big questions without a philosophy degree
Bulletproof Radio, for scientifically proven ways to boost your health
TED Radio Hour, for ideas that’ll blow your mind
Image from Patrick Breitenbach/Flickr.