Coping with COVID-19: Some Terrific Podcasts to Help Keep Anxiety at Bay.

headphones on yellow background

If you’re like me, you’re using books, TV shows, movies, and podcasts to help distract you from the COVID-19 news.

I’ve also been going for lots of long walks in Central Park—staying six feet away from other people, of course! Getting exercise and sunshine helps calm my nerves, take the edge off my restlessness, and it feels productive. It helps that Central Park is bursting with flowers, such as daffodils, forsythia, and trees with bright pink blooms.

These days, I often use this time to call my sister and my parents (I don’t know about you, but I’m talking much more on the phone these days), and I also listen to podcasts.

Exercise is so important to health, mood, and immune function, and many people are working hard to make sure they get exercise during this extraordinary and stressful time. In particular, many of the Happier listeners have joined Elizabeth and me for #Walk20in20. That’s a great time to listen to podcasts.

On the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, we often give a “gold star” to a podcast we love. Here are the ones we’ve featured:

Binge Mode — “Binge Mode is a pop-culture podcast produced by The Ringer and hosted by the website’s editor-in-chief, Mallory Rubin, and senior creative, Jason Concepcion. Each season is a deep dive into a pop culture phenomena, from Harry Potter to Star Wars.” How I love this podcast! I often re-listen to it if I really need to calm down.

Bitch Sesh: A Real Housewives Breakdown — “Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider dish on the Real Housewives season’s wildest moments, answer to all your burning Housewives questions, drink Housewives-branded wine, and bring on some super special guests.” One of Elizabeth’s favorites. She loves it so much that I went to see their live show in New York City—even though I don’t watch the Housewives shows.

Brain Stuff — “Whether the topic is popcorn or particle physics, you can count on BrainStuff to explore—and explain—the everyday science in the world around us.” Great.

But That’s Another Story — “Can one story change the course of your life? [My good friend, the brilliant Will Schwalbe, bestselling author of The End of Your Life Book Club and Books for Living and member of my children’s-literature reading group] invites notable guests to tell stories of the books—and the moments—that changed them.” I recently joined “But That’s Another Story” to talk about Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary and my love of children’s literature.

By the Book — “Half reality show, half self-help podcast, and one wild social experiment. Join comedian Jolenta Greenberg and culture critic Kristen Meinzer as they live by the rules of a different self-help book each episode to figure out which ones might actually be life changing.” You can read my conversation with Kristen Meinzer—our former “Happier” podcast producer!—here.

Do the Thing with Whole 30’s Melissa Hartwig Urban — “Eating healthier, exercising, setting boundaries, managing your money, recovering from addiction, healing from trauma, eliminating toxic relationships…we all have a thing we’ve been working on, but despite our best intentions, we just can’t make it stick. This new podcast from Melissa Hartwig Urban, Whole30 co-founder and #1 New York Times best-selling author, explores what’s been missing every time you’ve tried to do the thing, so you can finally change the pattern and level up for good.” Do The Thing is part of the Onward Project, a collection of podcasts I curate. You can listen to Elizabeth and me interview Melissa Urban in episode 219 and episode 52.

Eliza Starting at 16 — “A now nineteen-year-old girl in New York City—with a podcast I started at age 16—here to explain the world of teenagers.” My daughter Eliza’s podcast—she hosted it in high school and part of college. Eliza was also a guest on episode 30 of the Happier podcast.

Everything Happens with Kate Bowler — “Life isn’t always bright and shiny, as Kate Bowler knows. Kate is a young mother, writer and professor who, at age 35, was suddenly diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. In, warm, insightful, often funny conversations, Kate talks with people about what they’ve learned in dark times.” We interview Kate in episode 239—this conversation is one of our all-time favorites.

The Exponent — “In this program we seek to explore the massive effect technology is having not just on technology companies, but also on society as a whole. Hosted by authors Ben Thompson and James Allworth.” This podcast is absolutely fascinating.

Family Secrets with Dani Shapiro — “Family Secrets. We all have them. And while the discovery of family secrets can initially be terrifying or traumatic, often these discoveries have the power to liberate, heal, and even uplift us. Join Dani Shapiro, bestselling author of the memoir Inheritance, and her guests as they explore astonishing family secrets and uncover the extraordinary lessons the truth can teach us.” Mesmerizing stories. We talked to Dani Shapiro—a friend, and also coincidentally Elizabeth’s first writing teacher—about her blockbuster memoir Inheritance for our very first Happier Podcast Book Club.

Feel Better, Live More with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee — “In this podcast, we hear stories from leading health experts and exciting personalities who offer easy health life-hacks, expert advice and debunk common health myths giving you the tools to revolutionise how you eat, sleep, move and relax. Hosted by Dr. Chatterjee, Feel Better, Live More aims to inspire, empower and transform the way we feel. When we are healthier we are happier, because when we feel better we live more.” Sound advice, engaging conversation, terrific host, thought-provoking information about how to have a healthier life.

The Good Life Project — “Every week, we share inspirational, intimate and disarmingly-unfiltered conversations about living a fully-engaged, fiercely-connected and purpose-drenched life.” We interview The Good Life Project guest Jonathan Fields—a longtime friend—in episode 94.

Hidden Brain — “Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.” Fascinating.

Longform — “Interviews with writers, journalists, filmmakers, and podcasters about how they do their work. Hosted by Aaron Lammer, Max Linsky, and Evan Ratliff.” Love it.

Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books with Zibby Owens — “Writer Zibby Owens, an NYC-based mom of four, talks to other writers about their work.” Zibby is a friend and true book-lover who’s always spreading the love of reading.

Origins with James Andrew Miller — “Origins explores the beginnings of some of the most celebrated successes of our time. Spanning the worlds of television, movies, sports, business, and beyond, Miller reveals exclusive behind-the-scenes stories directly from the people who were in the room when history unfolded.” Elizabeth and I both listened to the episodes on the origins of the TV show Sex and the City—so good.

The Other F Word — “The Other F Word is taking the shame out of Failure. Join us as we explore what makes us human. Messy, funny, tragic, inspiring stories about failure.” Elizabeth was guest in episode 8.

Recode Media with Peter Kafka — “What happens when media, entertainment, and technology collide? Peter Kafka, one of the media industry’s most acclaimed reporters, talks to business titans, journalists, comedians and podcasters to get their take.” Consistently thought-provoking and insightful. Peter Kafka asks great questions.

Sleep with Me — “Insomnia? Mind racing at night? Worries keeping you up? Tune in for a bedtime story that lets you forget your problems and progressively gets more boring until you fall to sleep. So get in bed, press play, close your eyes, and drift off into dreamland.” I was astonished to learn that a podcast like this existed—but I love it! If you’re having trouble sleeping these days—or like me, you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t drift off again—try this podcast.

Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris — “Dan Harris is a fidgety, skeptical ABC newsman who had a panic attack live on Good Morning America, which led him to something he always thought was ridiculous: meditation. In this podcast, Dan talks with smart people about whether there’s anything beyond 10%. Basically, here’s what this podcast is obsessed with: Can you be an ambitious person and still strive for enlightenment (whatever that means)?” I’m a longtime fan of Dan’s work. You can listen to our interview with Dan Harris in episode 19, and read my conversation with him here.

Tumble Science Podcast for Kids “Exploring stories of science discovery. Tumble is a science podcast created to be enjoyed by the entire family.” I haven’t listened to this myself, but seems like a great resource, especially right now, when Tumble is focusing on the coronavirus and giving expert answers in language children can understand—also in Spanish.

Twenty Thousand Hertz — “A lovingly crafted podcast that reveals the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds.” Eliza loves this podcast as much as I do. Thought-provoking, beautifully crafted, a great way to focus on the power of sound in our lives—something that I’ve been exploring for my book about the body and the senses.

Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel — “Step into iconic couples therapist Esther Perel’s office and listen as real couples anonymously bare the raw, intimate, and profound details of their story. From infidelity, to sexlessness, to loss, it’s a space for people to be heard and understood. It’s also a place for us to listen and feel empowered in our own relationships. So.. where should we begin?” It’s fascinating to eavesdrop on other people’s relationship troubles.

Without Fail — “Candid conversations with entrepreneurs, artists, athletes, visionaries of all kinds—about their successes, and their failures, and what they learned from both. Hosted by Alex Blumberg, from Gimlet Media.” Great conversations with interesting people about huge challenges they faced.

Everyone in my family loves podcasts, so I asked my husband Jamie and my two daughters for their recommendations:


The Bill Simmons Podcast — “HBO and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons hosts the most downloaded sports podcast of all time, with a rotating crew of celebrities, athletes, and media staples, as well as mainstays like Cousin Sal, Joe House, and a slew of other friends and family members who always happen to be suspiciously available.” My husband Jamie is a huge fan of everything Bill Simmons, so last Christmas I bought him “The Ringer” t-shirt, and he wears it constantly.

Bodega Boys — “Desus Nice and The Kid Mero are the Bodega Boys.” Jamie got our whole family hooked on the hilarious Showtime late-night talk show Desus and Mero, and this is the duo’s podcast.


99% Invisible — “Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we’ve just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture.” Like Twenty Thousand Hertz, this is a show that is calm, interesting, thought-provoking.

Brought to You By… “Surprising stories about how the biggest, household name brands affect our lives and culture — for better or worse. Host Charlie Herman finds tales of tragedy, love, strange histories, unintended consequences, and accidental success.” Eliza is very interested in brands.

Pop Culture Happy Hour — “Pop Culture Happy Hour is a fun and freewheeling chat about the latest movies, television, books, and music.” This is one of the first podcasts Eliza ever listened to, and one of her favorites.

The Splendid Table — “With award-winning food journalist Francis Lam at the helm, we’re bringing forward even more fresh voices and surprising conversations at the intersection of food, people and culture—covering everything from the global appeal of sesame to the impact of Instagram on everyday eating. It’s a food show where everyone is welcome.” For foodies everywhere.


Cautionary Tales — “We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life lessons, but these Cautionary Tales are for the education of the grown ups—and they are all true. Tim Harford brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos. They’ll delight you, scare you, but also make you wiser.” I take credit for introducing Eleanor to this podcast. We both love it. Fascinating, suspenseful, educational.

Con Artists — “This Parcast Original peeks behind the masks of the most notorious Con Artists, and explores how far someone will go in order to gain money, power, and respect.” Eleanor loves a great con story.

I could go on! We’re a podcast-loving family. And I’m always looking for new recommendations. If you have any, please add below.




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