Whether you’re new to the world of podcasts or have a regular favourite that you usually turn to on your daily commute, there’s no denying they’re a great way to enjoy a little light relief while we’re all self-isolating at home. And if you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up, plenty of them are designed to help boost your mood, whether that’s through laughter, inspiring advice or simply finding a way to put a smile on your face. Here, we’ve rounded up the 14 most uplifting podcasts to listen to right now.
Brought to you by the New York Times, this weekly podcast sees a notable actor read a moving personal essay on modern life, love or loss, then chat to the writer behind it. Previous names to read the stories have included Sandra Oh, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kate Winslet and Uma Thurman, with the latest instalment being delivered by Daisy Edgar-Jones, star of the BBC’s adaptation of Normal People. By turn thought-provoking, provocative and poignant, these podcasts are the perfect panacea for anyone feeling a bit jaded by the current Covid-19 climate. No wonder they’ve been turned into both an anthology and an Amazon Prime series.
Hosted from her very own dinner table, Jessie Ware’s podcast is nothing to do with good etiquette. Instead, in each episode the singer-songwriter invites a different celebrity guest to dine with her and her mum, Lennie. Together they tuck into a three-course meal the mother-daughter combo have cooked, open a bottle of wine and let the conversation flow. So far they’ve cooked sausage and bean casserole for Ed Sheeran, blackberry and custard tarts for Nigella Lawson and had to order take-out after a culinary disaster while cooking for George Ezra. Whatever is on the menu, expect an audio slice of comfort food and a lesson in the art of good conversation.
Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations
If there’s one person who has no trouble getting amazing guests on her podcast, it’s Oprah. Designed to help you ‘awaken, discover and connect to the deeper meaning of the world around you’, Oprah’s podcast asks the biggest names about the big-picture questions in life, deep-diving into their thoughts on happiness, fulfilment and success. The list of guests reads like a roll-call for the most influential people on the planet today, from Michelle Obama to Malala Yousafzai, Lady Gaga to Ralph Lauren and even Ru Paul. With conversations getting deep and personal, this is the most intimate way to get to know these inspiring characters.
How to Fail with Elizabeth Day
The idea that you learn more from failure than from success is the founding principle for journalist Elizabeth Day’s podcast. Each episode, Elizabeth talks to a high profile guest about the three failures that taught them how to succeed better in the long run – a format designed to help listeners understand that sometimes you need to celebrate the things which don’t go right. The last four episodes have been specifically designed to help everyone though lockdown and Covid-19 anxiety, including a special episode featuring Henry Holland talking about the failure of his business amid Coronavirus – a topic which is still emotionally raw for him but which he discusses with inspiring honesty and perspective.
Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place
BBC Radio DJ and presenter Fearne Cotton takes a deep dive into the topic of happiness, drawing on her own experience with mental health issues and sharing advice from experts about how to find that inner joy. Each episode sees a different high profile guest discuss the way they approach their own happiness, from making fundamental changes in their lives to reframing the way they look at the world. We recommend listening to the amazing Ricky Gervais episode as a good place to start. So whether you’re feeling a bit lost on lockdown or frazzled from your attempts to work from home, this inspiring podcast is just what you need to help you unlock the key to your Happy Place.
Bryony Gordon’s Mad World
When the days start blurring into one, it’s easy to feel a little deflated. Clearly some motivation is in order, which is exactly what Telegraph journalist Bryony Gordon serves up in her podcast, encouraging listeners to do the one thing they never thought they could. Designed to be hopeful and inspiring, this mini series came into being when Gordon realised that the main barrier to her achieving her goals was herself, so she decided to interview people who have also overcome obstacles and turned negatives into positives. The result is a podcast that makes you feel like anything is possible, no matter how hard it may seem.
The High Low
This weekly pop-culture podcast mashes up the high brow with the trivial to bring you a round up of everything you need on your radar that week, whether it’s the latest award-winning literature, current affairs or even trashy reality TV. Hosted by Sunday Times columnist and author Dolly Alderton and fashion writer and essayist Pandora Sykes, The High Low is as edifying as it is uplifting, making it a great listen if you want to keep your finger on the pulse without things getting too heavy. Expect discussions of Trumpian politics one minute juxtaposed with Netflix recommendations the next – just what you need during lockdown.
TED Radio Hour
You’ve probably listened to a TED Talk before – one of the short, powerful talks in which speakers spread their inspirational ideas in under 18 minutes, the ideal amount of time for a substantive discussion without losing the audience’s attention. Covering an incredibly diverse range of topics, these short, snappy presentations are incredibly popular, so it’s no surprise they’ve transitioned to podcast form. TED Radio Hour is a weekly 60-minute radio show and podcast which explores the biggest questions of our time with the help of the world’s greatest speakers. So whether that’s exploring the idea of loneliness – a relevant topic on lockdown – or the power of reinvention, this is a great way to get your TED Talks fix without watching a video.
Desert Island Discs
Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs is something of an institution now, having been running since 1942, when it began life as a radio show before morphing into a podcast. Inspirational guests share the soundtrack to their lives, choosing eight tracks, a book and a luxury item that they would take with them if stranded on a desert island. Through their choices, they reveal the key moments, choices and people in their lives who have got them to where they are today. Not sure which of the 2,200 shows to start with? Try war surgeon David Nott’s moving story or Maya Angelou’s magnificent tale of becoming mute and rediscovering her voice through poetry.
How I Built This
With a focus on innovation, this American podcast talks to entrepreneurs and founders about the incredible brands and movements that they built. A great source of inspiration for any aspiring entrepreneurs, each episode looks at the unique back story of the guest, covering the drive, perseverance and passion which they needed to become a success. In fact, the podcast has proved so popular that there is now a How I Built This Summit, which takes place every year in San Francisco featuring keynote speakers who appeared on the podcast. There are currently over 200 episodes to choose from, but we actually recommend starting with the very first episode featuring Sara Blakely, the woman who was once America’s youngest self-made billionaire after founding Spanx.
Saints of Somewhere
Created as a reaction to the endless tyranny of algorithms which guide you round the virtual world through a series of mindless scrolling, Saints of Somewhere is a podcast that “reclaims culture via word of mouth”. Each episode features an interview with a remarkable guest, from athletes and activists, to film directors and fashion designers, each of whom discusses their ‘saints’ – the people who have got them to where they are today. Expect intimate portraits of the influences, defining moments and life lessons which have contributed to the success of these newsmakers – as well as a fool-proof method for shutting down the visuals and simply listening instead.
Woman’s Prize for Fiction
Arguably the perfect book club, this fortnightly podcast sees Vice editor Zing Tsjeng cover the very best fiction written by women with a different high profile bookworm guest. This season sees the likes of Dolly Alderton, Scarlett Curtis, Joanna Trollope and Stanley Tucci discussing the diverse back-catalogue of Women’s Prize for Fiction winners, exploring the life-changing stories inside them and what the future holds for fiction today. Now in its 25th year, the prize continues to champion women’s voices – something which the podcast celebrates by offering exclusive access to this year’s shortlisted writers. The perfect way to help you find some escapism on your bookshelf.
Katherine Ryan: Telling Everybody Everything
If you’re after a podcast that will make you laugh until you cry, look no further than Katherine Ryan’s new release – within a week of launching it had shot straight to the top of the iTunes comedy podcast chart. As the title suggests it’s a no-holds barred account from the hilariously honest comedian, created from the confines of lockdown. Each week she tackles a topic with her trademark candid wit, covering everything from pregnancy loss to being burgled and potty training her daughter, Violet. It’s funny, thought provoking and heart-warming all at the same time.
Slay in Your Lane: The Podcast
Fans of Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené’s groundbreaking book Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible, which launched to widespread critical acclaim in 2018, will be thrilled to hear that the multi-award-winning duo have launched a brand new podcast. Running fortnightly, you’ll find them discussing topical news and popular culture while continuing to drive the conversation around the experiences of Black British women. The podcast also expands on several key themes from the book, offering vital insights and advice on navigating the workplace, finances, health and relationships.