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Smile! 5 Podcasts About Happiness

Listen to these shows that focus on the brighter side of life

spinner image A woman sitting on her sofa listening to a podcast
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How can I be happier? If that loaded question is often on your mind — perhaps especially so during the pandemic — you may want to check out these five podcasts, whose hosts explore the concept of contentment from their own thoughtful perspectives. They're available on Spotify, your Apple podcast app and other popular podcast platforms.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin, 54, author of the huge best seller The Happiness Project and Better Than Before, offers a Webby award-winning show that feels a lot like a good, fun gab with friends. Rubin and her younger sister/cohost Elizabeth Craft — a TV writer and producer whom Rubin refers to as her happiness “guinea pig” — tap into everything from ancient wisdom to pop culture during this wildly popular weekly podcast/positivity trip (it's been downloaded more than 95 million times). They also offer lots of practical strategies for finding contentment, which they call “happiness hacks,” often emphasizing the importance of exercise for overall well-being.

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Ten Percent Happier

The host of this fascinating podcast, ABC News correspondent Dan Harris, 49, wrote his best-selling book, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found a Self-Help That Actually Works, after experiencing an on-air panic attack while anchoring Good Morning America. It led him to discover the healing power of meditation — a practice that Harris believes can make you about 10 percent happier. His podcast continues his journey, exploring the obstacles that can prevent contentment (self-defeating thoughts, for starters). Recent shows have included a discussion with the Dalai Lama, who admitted that he's looked to cute-animal videos as a source of relaxation during trying times. Note that during the coronavirus outbreak, Harris has been offering a free live “sanity break” at 3 p.m. Eastern time on weekdays that features a five-minute meditation followed by a discussion with listeners.

The Happiness Lab

Yale University psychology professor Laurie Santos first became widely known for her “Psychology and the Good Life” course, which she launched after becoming alarmed at the unhappiness and anxiety she saw among her students (the wonderful course, now offered online for free, became the most popular in Yale's history). You can listen to her insights by tuning in to her roughly half-hour weekly podcast on the science of happiness, which is more complex than you might think — in part, she explains, because our minds can often sabotage our own best interests. An appealing host, Santos focuses each episode on a particular topic, from how to spend money wisely to how to navigate tough life circumstances, and explores ways to prevent our brains from leading us astray.

Happy Place

The idea that happiness means different things to different people is at the heart of this insightful, roughly 40-minute weekly personality-driven podcast hosted by English television and radio presenter Fearne Cotton. Her merry cast of inspiring guests on Happy Place (Elizabeth Gilbert, Alicia Keys, Ricky Gervais and Russell Brand among them) share their struggles and anxieties and how they work to maintain a healthy and upbeat outlook despite them, and discuss their own definitions of happiness.

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Good Life Project

Host Jonathan Fields ("the Good Life Guy") brings us along on his joyful quest to “discover what makes people come fully alive” during these fascinating and well-edited hour-long shows. Typically including interviews with authors and self-help gurus such as Brené Brown and (yes, again) Elizabeth Gilbert, the twice-weekly Good Life Project episodes take deep dives into guests’ passions in a way that might help you awaken a few of your own. Fields recently spoke with James Nestor, author of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, about how we can harness our breath to better benefit our health and lives. Another show featured Brad Montague, author of Becoming Better Grownups, who discussed how listening to kids and becoming more childlike can help us find more joy in our adult lives.

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