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THE WELL

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  • August Gurin-Hirschoff

Tune In: Positivity in Podcasts

Podcasts get a bit of a bad rap and there are some good reasons for that, but since the COVID-19 pandemic began, I have been trying to seek out the gems. I have been a long time podcast listener, mainly so I can get a dose of news in the mornings or to hear the talk going on about my favorite sports teams. Over the past year though, I have begun to expand my horizons, trying out different genres and formats, in the hope that I can make my podcast feed more enjoyable (which usually means getting away from the news podcasts).

In my attempt to listen to a broader range of topics, I have found myself doing healthier or more productive activities in the name of podcast listening including: walking or grooming my dog more often, cleaning or organizing my room, and cooking. To elaborate a little on this, it is hard to get into a new hobby while listening to a fifteen-minute segment on the most terrible news you have ever heard, and it is much easier to do so when the podcast length is longer (which it often is for fiction podcasts) and does not induce anxiety about the general state of the world. By listening to the latter kind of podcasts in conjunction with other fun activities, I have found myself not only learning more, but also finding joy in them that was not really there for me before. They even help me find the motivation to do the personal maintenance things that, as someone with depression, can be difficult to do regularly, such as simply remembering to eat breakfast or flossing my teeth.

Of course, podcasts, like any other form of entertainment, are not a cure-all and I know for some people, they can be difficult to focus on because there is no visual aspect. What it comes down to for me is that podcasts have helped me a lot in my mental wellness, from giving me a focus, to the pure awe I sometimes feel when listening to how cool the sound design is in some of them (which often adds so much flavor to the auditory experience, particularly for fictional audio dramas where a few sounds here and there can really spark listeners’ imaginations). Furthermore, self-discovery and the curation of your interests, to me, is a way of practicing self-love, especially when those interests fulfill that sense of wonder/curiosity that can be hard to invoke beyond childhood. If you are looking to get into podcasts or are looking for some recommendations, I have included some of my favorites below. Enjoy!


  1. Call Me Mother - This is an interview format podcast in which the host brings on a different LGBTQ+ elder so that their stories may be told. The show’s aim is to help bridge the generational divide within the community, to provide insights into LGBTQ+ history through unique narratives and experiences, and to serve as a reminder to young LGBTQ+ people that they are not alone. As a bit of a history nerd, particularly when it comes to history I never got to learn in public school, I love getting to hear stories that have long gone unheard, especially when it comes directly from the people who experienced it.

  2. Within the Wires - This is a fictional anthology podcast that takes place in an alternate universe and comes from the creators of the show Welcome to Night Vale, which you may already be familiar with. It is hard to describe the show given how unique the format is (and I will admit, the first season is a little slow, pacing-wise) but the writing is really something special. I will also add that of the podcasts on this list, this one requires a bit of focus if you want to catch the plot. If the plot does not matter too much to you, the podcast is still pretty relaxing to have on in the background while doing other tasks.

  3. 8 Bit Book Club - Have you ever watched or read a bad piece of media for fun? Well, that is the conceit of this show. Each episode, the hosts present a different book from a given video game franchise (think Sonic or the Diablo games), provide a summary, their varying reactions to it, and their assessment of how well the book compares to the franchise it originates from. What is great about this podcast is getting to join in the disbelief at how some of these books got published in the first place, as well as hearing the hosts comically attempt to parse what the author’s original intent was. And in case you are wondering, you do not need to have any background in video games to appreciate how wild this show can get. My one warning is that this podcast ran from 2016-2018 so some of the humor may be a little dated.

  4. The Science of Birds - The title of this podcast is a bit of a giveaway as each episode, the host explains some cool stuff about birds (in a very soothing voice, I might add). Listening to this podcast on walks and then taking a pause to tune in to what is around you is really an experience unto itself, and now that I know more about birds, I have found that I feel more connected to the woods I have lived in my whole life more than I ever have before. This podcast also started back in 2020 so the information presented is very current.

  5. Gastropod - This podcast is about food, drinks, and the culture around what we consume. The show dives deep into whatever the topic of the episode is, explaining its origins, how it may have changed through the decades, and whatever role it plays in our life today. The hosts often interview people who work in the industry of whatever is being discussed in that episode, and they make a lot of science and history very digestible (no pun intended) for the average listener.


 

August is a Communication and Digital Studies major at the University of Mary Washington. They've got two cats and a dog, and a great love for discovering new and interesting media, particularly media of the horror and sci-fi genres. They are also a big fan of soccer and noodle-based foods


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