Although I do not believe that everything happens for a reason, I wholeheartedly believe that sparks of light can be found in the darkest of times. I have written before about my struggles with losing an integral part of my identity- about not being able to run- and my stubborn and mysterious injury has not ceased to agitate me on a daily basis. An inability to run, however, has forced me to seek out other outlets to find the stress relief, strength, clarity, and inspiration that my soul craves. My running hiatus has now lasted more than a year and a half, but I have finally discovered two very bright stars- podcasts and yoga- in what was once an abyss. These are not just additional interests or hobbies, but fundamental lifestyle changes that I will continue to appreciate once I run again. This post is a collection of my favorite podcasts; a yoga-related piece will follow shortly.
Before discussing my personal favorite podcasts, I must mention the benefits I’ve experienced from making podcasts part of my daily routine. I begin each morning with 90 minutes on the elliptical. 90 minutes is a large chunk of time. Not only do podcasts make this time go by faster, but they make it truly worthwhile. Rather than merely burning calories and getting an endorphin rush, I am quenching my intellectual curiosity before most of my college peers are awake! Perhaps the best part of podcasts is that they generate more questions than answers- I find myself thinking about these ideas throughout the week, and as an aspiring researcher, I am constantly coming up with interdisciplinary questions to pursue in the future. Additionally, podcasts have exponentially increased my awareness of the world. It is rare that a day goes by without me hearing something related in a class or from a friend and want to interject (but don’t want to be that annoying person!) “I heard on a podcast…”
Here are my top podcast picks- try some of them out, and please let me know what you think! Also, I should mention that the “I don’t have time” excuse does not apply to podcasts- listen while you’re working out, cleaning, cooking, or driving. Enjoy!
Running On Om
The runners and yogis interviewed on this podcast are not merely runners or yogis, but wellness pioneers who use innovative practices to create meaningful change in the world. Each episode explores the mind-body-spirit connection by providing raw conversation with those who have achieved success not by following a traditional path, but by doing their “om” thing. They take what they have learned through their passion off of the road or mat and into the world. For example, Dr. Melody Moore, a clinical psychologist has integrated empirically-supported psychological treatments with yoga interventions for adolescents with eating disorders. I am constantly inspired by the stories on ROO, and they have significantly influenced my future career goals.
This is not a podcast that I typically listen to. As I grapple with my personal religious beliefs, however, I have found the selected episodes below extremely thought provoking. The number of religious ‘nones’ in our country is rapidly increasing, and these episodes explore this phenomenon. Here are some key questions they address- Do we turn to religion because it easily provides us with beliefs, belonging, and behaviors? Can boutique fitness studios, such as SoulCycle or CrossFit, that many now claim is their “religion” fulfill these key functions? When we are raised with religion, stray from it as young adults, and then have kids, why do we innately feel guilty and thus raise our children with religion? What is the future of morality, be that religious or secular?
As someone with absolutely no interest in economics, business, or anything of that nature, I was reluctant to listen to this podcast. Well, one year later and I have listened to more than 100 episodes! Each week, Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt discuss “everything you always wanted to know but never thought to ask.” Sometimes they explore questions that I am already familiar with, like the concept of grit or organ donation, but use the most creative means to address it. For example, I am fascinated by the ethics and medical process of organ donation, but on Freakonomics, I heard from the economist who devised the algorithm to help transplant recipients find donors. Other times, the topic is something I’ve never really contemplated but am suddenly curious about- like why it seems there is a mattress store on every corner!
As a psychology student, I am naturally drawn to this podcast, which is hosted by NPR’s social science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed almost every episode, but my favorite one is definitely Dream Jobs. It discusses the practice of job crafting, or creating a career that combines our passions with our skills, and of cognitive crafting, or reframing how we interpret our daily work. For example, hospital custodial staff who aim to provide a more pleasant experience for patients, such as offering to get them a glass of water, or informing a physician that they haven’t had a visitor in weeks, feel much more of a purpose than those who see their jobs as simply cleaning. Furthermore, these individuals identify as healers, and find greater meaning in their work.
Selected Episode: How To Build A Better Job
This has been my mom’s favorite program on NPR for years. Although I do not listen to it regularly, this selected episode provides a great overview on the power of the mind in healing the body. I find it ironic that some people are opposed to psychoactive drugs for fear that they will change their brains. As this podcast demonstrates, placebos, virtual reality, and meditation can be just as effective in physically changing the brain’s neural circuitry. Rather than demeaning the placebo effect, this podcast argues that we should be harnessing its power. I’m quite interested to see where this goes in the future, and it is especially relevant as I begin to bring yoga and meditation into my everyday life.
Selected Episode: How Meditation, Placebos And Virtual Reality Help Power ‘Mind Over Body’
Happy listening 🙂