One of our drivers at Inspired is pushing back against compromise at the expense of happiness: doing good doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, for example. One compromise that a huge portion of Americans make on a daily basis is a long commute (in exchange for a decent job). Believe it or not, this is a compromise that is proven to directly affect your health. According to Scientific American, “each added travel minute correlates with an increase in health problems,” and studies show that “long-distance commuters” disproportionately suffer from chronic headaches, fatigue, digestive problems, and high blood pressure among other conditions. So naturally, we decided we needed to hack this extremely common compromise.
First, there’s some basic re-framing to do. To reverse the often psychosomatic conditions (meaning symptoms that manifest in the body via the mind’s perception, rather than fake symptoms that are “all in your head”) caused by commuting stress, we might view it as an opportunity for “me time” instead. Of course, wedging yourself in a train car between sweaty commuters for 45 minutes isn’t exactly a candlelit bubble bath. What it can be, however, is a new moment of regeneration and inspiration in your day.
Here’s where podcasts figure in: with their climb in popularity among young people, it’s becoming clear that they offer a totally unique kind of self-help perfectly packaged for busy Millennials. While there are nearly as many podcast genres as stars in the sky, podcasts as a medium have always been best suited to content that teaches, whether that be through stories, interviews, or general hilarious banter. What do both learning something new and laughter have in common? They’re both proven to reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
With this in mind, the right kind of lifestyle podcasts may just be your best weapon against the commuter blues and your best asset in starting the day positive, informed, and inspired. Packed with either laughs, teachable moments, or both, here are the best podcasts for your commute to get you prepared to tackle work, relationships, and life in general.
Hosted by two veterans of the corporate world, Safe For Work is full of sage career advice, with none of the boring stuff. Unlike many business-oriented podcasts, Safe For Work is full of fun banter and candid stories, lending it the sense you’re listening in on a conversation between friends, rather than being lectured about best practices at work. According to its webpage, the show helps listeners mediate “big decisions, sort through the small stuff, and get more fulfillment from [their] work life.” Especially if you’re dealing with a specific issue at work, Safe for Work is not only a great resource for advice, but also a reassuring voice that you can, in fact, overcome this obstacle with both grace and humor.
Particularly for those overworked, burned out, or even recently out of a job, Second Life is a much-needed source of personal and professional inspiration. Each episode hosts a conversation with a different entrepreneur that drastically switched paths halfway through their careers. Some highlights include a backup dancer-turned-celebrity-facialist and a former architect with a lucrative career as a fashion blogger. The ultimate message of the show is clear: age, experience level, and professional background are never excuses not to pursue what you love. Thoroughly inspiring, Second Life teaches listeners little ways to make changes and be more fulfilled in their careers, even if they’re not ready for a 360-degree industry change.
What better learning experience than a literal counseling session? This more serious-toned podcast features counselor Esther Perel talking to couples in one-time couples therapy sessions. Each episode (and indeed each therapy session) is focused around a general issue, like compromise, entitlement, and sacrifice in relationships, and offers a singular, intimate look into the complexities of other people’s relationships. From the listener’s standpoint, this kind of unfiltered access can actually be a valuable tool for peace of mind. So often we compare our own internal issues to the external image other people publicly present, and Where Should We Begin? offers to strip away that facade and show listeners that their own relationship concerns are both normal and surmountable. While the show tends toward the emotional and serious, it’s essentially a free therapy session, which has proven psychological benefits to last all day long.
Their tagline is “prepare to laugh, then cry, then laugh again,” which is a high bar to set. But between the two hilarious hosts, Tobin Low and Kathy Tu, and some very creative episode titles (“The Golden Queers,” an episode about life after retirement), this LGBT+ relationship podcast packs a punch. Featuring well-known guests like Alan Cumming and Lena Waithe, Nancy is a hidden gem of truly candid, engaging interviews. For those that have chosen laughter as their medicine of choice, this is the pre-work podcast for you. “This is absolutely one of the best podcasts out there right now,” one listener writes on Nancy’s page. “Whether you’re LGBTQ or not, this is a great show”
Getting Curious does something extremely unique from an entertainment perspective: it tackles current events in a completely non-stressful, fun and uplifting way. Impossible, right? It was, until Jonathan Van Ness (from Netflix’s Queer Eye) and his unstoppable affirmations found a seat at the table. Featuring interviews with experts across fields from politics, to psychology, to figure skating, the show aims to explore a huge variety of topics in a super accessible way. The show’s webpage describes the show’s content as “anything and everything under the sun,” which, so far, seems to be the case. Come for the variety, stay for the unwaveringly consistent positivity.
Invisibilia is a little crafty in the same way as Getting Curious: it draws you in with an entertaining structure, and then suddenly, you’re well-versed in some current event, social justice issue, or political concept. Not a bad deal for the morning commute. Like most other non-news shows from NPR, Invisibilia is written as a story, gradually unfolding with first-hand accounts and top-notch journalistic background. Topics range from social media alter-egos to the “secret emotional life” of clothes, and each episode aims to address some “unseeable force” that “controls human behavior and shapes our ideas, beliefs and assumptions,” according to the show’s webpage. Indeed, Invisibilia is Latin for “invisible things,” which the show uncovers through its masterful, uniquely NPR-style investigative storytelling. Forgo your favorite Top-40 radio station one morning, and you may just gain insight into broader human condition.