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Podcasts that help you heal

Amrita V Nair | Updated on May 07, 2021

Breathe easy: Audio files can help ease a listener’s anxiety   -  ISTOCK.COM

Comforting or distracting listeners with poetry — and more — in these trying times

* Poetry Unbound seeks to provide its listeners just that through what it describes as a poetry ritual — one in which you would listen to an immersive poetry reading by the host, Irish poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama

* Hosted by journalist Shankar Vedantam and produced by National Public Radio (NPR), the podcast seeks to reveal “unconscious patterns that drive human behaviour”

* Hosted by journalists Yasmin Amer and Andrea Asuaje, Kind World, which completed a seven-year run and aired its last episode in July 2020, is a podcast devoted to unsung heroes and acts of kindness

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I have to confess that putting pen to paper for this month’s roundup of podcast recommendations has been unusually difficult. Given the bleak times that we find ourselves in and the long road to recovery ahead of us, I suspect that I am not alone in feeling anxious, and at sea. Each time I sat down to write this piece, I found myself wondering what I could possibly recommend to the readers of this column that would help in these desperate times.

After much thought it occurred to me that the best I could offer are the podcasts that helped me cope with my own anxiety during the pandemic — either by providing solace or by helping to keep my mind off things. These four podcasts have provided me comfort and distraction during the past year. I hope that they will offer you the same.

Poetry Unbound

Anecdotally, at least, poetry has found a place in more bookshelves over the past year. Time and again I hear from friends and acquaintances who have never quite liked poetry that the pandemic has changed their tastes and inspired them to give poetry a chance. Many of them then reported that they found hope and healing in verse. The lyrical escapism provided by a good poem can be a wonderful respite in times of uncertainty and stress. Poetry Unbound seeks to provide its listeners just that through what it describes as a poetry ritual — one in which you would listen to an immersive poetry reading by the host, Irish poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama. After the poem is read, Ó Tuama talks about the technical aspects of the poem in a way that is accessible and interesting even to those who have never read poetry before. When relevant, he also talks about the historical context of the poem or its setting or about his own personal experiences that shaped his reaction to the work. Episodes are released on Monday and Friday and are about 15 minutes long. Poems that are read in the podcast are very evocative and often feature a story or narrative that is easy to escape to. Listen at https://onbeing.org/series/poetry-unbound/

Hidden Brain

If poetry is not your cup of tea or if you prefer your distraction with a side of learning, Hidden Brain is a great podcast to tune in to. Hosted by journalist Shankar Vedantam and produced by National Public Radio (NPR), the podcast seeks to reveal “unconscious patterns that drive human behaviour”. Vedantam is a wonderful raconteur who transforms complex scientific concepts into fascinating, even mesmerising, narratives that can really pull you in. Whether it’s an exploration of why we laugh less as we grow older or the psychology of how humans react to risks such as Covid-19, Vedantam’s narrative style that blends cultural references and personal anecdotes with expert interviews will keep you engrossed. Episodes are released weekly and are about 50 minutes each. Listen at https://www.npr.org/series/423302056/hidden-brain

Get Sleepy

If you’ve been having trouble falling asleep since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, you are not alone. Across the world, doctors are reporting the prevalence of higher rates of insomnia than ever before. Many experts recommend a bedtime routine that helps get your brain ready for bed as one of the ways to counter insomnia. My own routine involves playing a calming podcast or audiobook that is set to automatically pause playing at the conclusion of an episode or chapter. Amongst all the different podcasts I’ve tried, Get Sleepy, with its unique blend of sleep meditation and calming bedtime stories, has been one of the most effective and well-made. Set against a backdrop of calming music and narrated by a team of expert voice-over artists, this twice-weekly podcast is especially helpful in calming racing thoughts before bed. Listen at https://getsleepy.com

Kind World

Hosted by journalists Yasmin Amer and Andrea Asuaje, Kind World, which completed a seven-year run and aired its last episode in July 2020, is a podcast devoted to unsung heroes and acts of kindness. In each episode, the hosts recount acts of kindness done by ordinary people who have made the world a better place to live in. Episodes feature interviews with the Good Samaritan who performed the act of kindness as well as with recipients of their kindness. It’s a true feel-good podcast and especially helpful listening on days when one feels pessimistic or cynical. The 2020 season was also interspersed with shorter episodes featuring heartwarming voicemails left by listeners who recounted acts of kindness that made a difference in their lives. In times of despair, this is a podcast that helps remind me of the best in humanity and gives me hope for the future. Listen at https://www.wbur.org/kindworld

(Active Voice is a monthly column on podcasts)

Amrita V Nair   -  BusinessLine

 

Amrita V Nair is a freelance writer, public policy specialist and podcast enthusiast

Twitter: @amritanairv

Published on May 07, 2021

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