Last Night A Podcast Saved My Life

I am totally addicted to podcasts. Specifically, podcasts on self-help.

I know the term ‘self-help’ can sound a bit wanky, but at the heart of it, it’s just people being honest. About their dreams,  routines, personal stories, overcoming obstacles, dealing with failure, figuring out what they want, beating procrastination, and creating and sticking to good habits.

Since I started commuting to work three hours’ a day – one and half hours each way at least – I listen to podcasts pretty much everyday, with a bit of music and meditation apps thrown in.

And even though I feel relatively new to the space, as I’ve only been listening properly for six months or so, it’s still no exaggeration to say that this stuff has changed my life.

I’ve been interested in self-help and motivational techniques for years, but there’s something about podcasts that just feel like you’re getting personal tutoring or counselling from experts directly into your ears.

Sometimes, reading just wouldn’t work. f I’m walking to a bus stop or getting on and off a train when I’m listening ‒ the effect of headphones in-ear, plus a brilliant podcast, feels incredibly meditative yet also engaging.

Maybe it’s just the way that I learn best, but somehow, listening to this stuff in this way just works. It sinks in much easier that a quick blogpost or article or book chapter might. If I’m too tired, rushed or squashed on to a train to read, I can nearly always listen.

Often, interviewees and guests on one podcast will have their own podcasts or have many others they can recommend, and so listening to one show will inevitably lead to another brilliant subscription to another one in a similar vein.

Couple this with other sources of similar self-help (or honest conversations) ‒ such as books or posts by inspirational bloggers, writers, entrepreneurs, online coaches, psychologists and TED talks…

…and I can honestly say I’m feeling more productive, disciplined, free, and calm yet focused than I have in a long while.

For someone as anxious and over-thinking as me, there are always bad mental health days to go with the good, of course, but these podcasts certainly help. Here are my absolute go-to listens for when I need a boost, a break from the frustration of commuting, or a good push in the right direction.

 

Dear Sugar

tile-dear-sugar-1-1000x1000

From the incredible writer Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, this relationship agony-aunt-style show was my first podcast (well, apart from the first season of American Life’s blockbuster Serial, of course). I quickly became addicted to the soothing, understanding, straight-talking yet compassionate and often very funny insights into readers’ often-harrowing dilemmas. I listen to this one when I’m feeling a bit vulnerable or confused, and need the unending wisdom of Strayed to comfort me. It never fails to cheer me up about life and love.

What I’ve learned most: The solution to most issues in life is: stand up for yourself without being rude, be kind, put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and communicate, communicate, communicate.

 

Real Talk Radio

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Far and away one of my favourites. Nicole Antoinette – former accountability coach, full-time habit changer, and now badass podcast host – has incredibly detailed, honest but relaxed conversations about what she calls ‘the wonderful mess of being human’. Long enough for an entire commute, these sessions feel like listening to chats between wise yet wonderful, creative women, who feel like mentors but who secretly I kind of think I want to be friends with, too.

What I’ve learned most: Habits can be changed if you want to change them, and it’s as important to know when you’re letting yourself ‘off the hook’ from a commitment, as it is to give yourself a damn break when you need it, too.

 

The School of Greatness

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From Lewis Howes, former pro-athlete and now successful lifestyle and motivation coach, this podcast is super-positive without being ridiculously cheesy, and features inspiring stories, humour, and ‘you can do it’ motivational music. Sometimes a little bit ‘blokey’ – with sports stars trading bro stories and exercise buffs discussing workout routines – it is nonetheless a vulnerable, honest, and endlessly powerful listen.

What I’ve learned most: Your dreams can change, and that’s OK; and that choosing your own priorities in life (rather than following everyone else’s) is totally the best policy wherever possible.

 

Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert

magic-lessons

The patron saint of young women looking for their purpose in life, Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author of Eat, Pray, Love among others) podcasts are like extensions of her books. As interviews and conversations about creativity and giving yourself permission to chase it, these episodes are wise, empathetic, humorous, down-to-earth (at times!), wonderfully artistic, and incredibly encouraging.

What I’ve learned most: Art is a seriously good way to get in touch with your inner emotion, playfulness, freedom – and doing it with absolutely no real purpose or money-making is sometimes actually the best way.

 

The Couragemakers

that-hummingbird-life-new

From Meg Kissack, who is easily one of the most genuinely frank people I know online, this podcast is more rough and ready than some of the super-polished American blockbusters, and I totally love it for that. It deals with the same questions as the others – honesty, truth, creativity, and going deep on your life’s goals – but in a really down-to-earth, reassuring way. Meg’s blog is equally comforting and inspiring, and I read it most days to remind myself that my ideas and dreams are worth having

What I’ve learned most: As Meg says, ‘everything changes when you believe you matter’.

What are your favourite podcasts? Do you love them too or are you more of a books/blogs person?

Drop me a line @HannahsRhapsody 🙂

Other podcasts I listen to pretty regularly

  1. Impostercast, by Jordan Axani and Megan Rafuse – honest episodes of varying length on life and the sense all have that we might just be faking it until we get found out
  2. Modern Love, by WBUR and The New York Times – beautiful stories on life-changing experiences on love and life, with touching interviews with ordinary people
  3. Zestology: Live with Energy, Vitality, Motivation, Health, Confidence, Great Sleep, Biohacking, and more – a new one I’ve discovered since getting into NLP. Down-to-earth yet inspiring stuff from Brit Tony Wrighton
  4. The 5am Miracle with Jeff Sanders – Healthy Habits, Personal Developments, Rockin’ Productivity – Podcasts on the theme of ‘dominating the day before breakfast’, this is born of Jeff Sanders’ habit of getting out of bed at 5am and getting incredible things done before everyone else is awake. Getting up at 5am sounds far too extreme for me, but the idea that you can change your morning habits and start the day on a high, rather than a harsh, caffeine-soaked shock to the system is a compelling one.
  5. Unmistakeable Creative – Varied podcasts on all sorts of issues affecting creatives and entrepreneurs, from business strategy to personal confidence. Hoping to really get into this one soon.

Other podcasts I’ve downloaded because they look amazing/useful/popular but have yet to really get into. It’s only a matter of time! 

  1. Being Boss: Mindset, Habits, Tactics, and Lifestyle For Creative Entrepreneurs
  2. Ctrl Alt Delete
  3. Running On Om
  4. Happier with Gretchen Rubin
  5. The Fizzle Show – Heart and Hustle, Self-Employment, & Creative Business
  6. The Tim Ferris Show
  7. The Becoming Podcast
  8. Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield
  9. The RobCast
  10. The Girl Gang Conversations – Sarah Starrs
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5 reasons to listen to Greg Holden

I’m not sure if everyone has already heard of Greg Holden and I’m just super-late to the party, or if he is indeed as underrated as he appeared to me when he popped up on my Spotify playlist, but it matters not, because he is ABSOLUTELY excellent.

His Hold On Tight song – a Mumford-and-Sons-esque, folk-inspired triumph about not taking your life for granted, above – has come through my headphones every morning this week, instantly sending what feels like molten happiness through my commute-weary veins. On Monday, after an emotional weekend and a really early start, it was like auditory nectar. I love it. 

It’s ironic, also, that one of my favourite songs of his is called Go Chase The Sun, during what must be THE wettest and most dismal June in the UK on record. SIGH.

And in case that wasn’t enough, here’s five more reasons why you should definitely check Greg Holden out.

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“Just write”, she said: On the wisdom of Laura Barnett, author of The Versions of Us

Last night I went to see Laura Barnett at a book event at Clapham Library, and found myself inspired not just by her beautiful novel, but also her honesty and clarity, and her very human appreciation of how very hard it is to find time to write

Laura Barnett, author of the wonderful 2015 novel The Versions of Us, is rare.

As her first ever published book, the novel was a Sunday Times bestseller, has been translated into over 20 languages, optioned for a TV series, and has enabled Barnett to put aside her previous journalism work and take to writing fiction full time. For a writer, it’s the dream.

Except, it wasn’t quite her first book. As she explained at her very own literary event at the opening night of the Omnibus Clapham Literary Festival last night – twinkly, friendly, articulate, funny, blonde and stylish as she was ‒ it was actually her third novel, and had been, at times, bloody tough to write.

Not that you could tell from reading it. It’s lyrical, beautiful; stunning in both description and characterisation – the individuals within it as real and flawed and insecure and loving and sexy and fragile and scared and fabulous as any actual human ‒ and as expansive and detailed in its descriptions as in its depiction of life and all its infinite tiny decisions and worries.

Much of it is set in Cambridge (my old uni), whose colleges are centuries-old and whose streets are seemingly impervious to the restless decades, and Rome (one of my all-time favourite cities), and Cornwall (where one of my best friends lives), so much so that I felt like it was almost written for me.

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Let’s stop with the negative self-talk, OK?

True, that

True, that

Really thought about this advert from Whole Foods during my workout today. I see this poster every time I walk into the Tube at the moment, and you know what? It’s so right.

I did another HIIT workout this morning, even though yesterday’s workout meant my thighs and calves were killing me (even after a bit of stretching), and it wasn’t easy. I felt tired and weary, and try as I might my legs felt heavy pretty much all the way through.

I kept going, of course, but damn if a tiny negative voice started piping up, going “No point doing it if you’re not going to do it properly”, “jump higher, how lazy are you?”, “ENGAGE the muscles, stop cheating when you bend down, commit to it, for god’s sake”. Etc etc. All the good stuff (not).

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What would Maya Angelou do? Her best quotes

The great, late Maya Angelou was pretty damn perceptive (understatement). I quoted her in this piece about personal heartbreak, but there are a lot of incredible phrases from her floating about in light of her death at the end of May, and I wanted to honour them, too.

I’ve been reading her I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, and although it’s a bloody shame that she had to die before I really discovered her wisdom, I guess it’s better late than never.

Meanwhile, here are some of my favourite, most meaningful quotes from her, taken from this piece on the Guardian.

  • You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
  • It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.
  • I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.
  • We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
  • Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.
  • I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights (I think this is true, but I also include “missed flights/trains” into the lost luggage bit, and “tangled headphones” into the last one).

And the last, most galvanising of all:

  • Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.

 

“Less bullshit, more awesome”: In homage to A Life Less Bullshit

A Life Less Bullshit. The dream...

A Life Less Bullshit. The dream…

Just a quick homage to the inspirational powerhouse that is Nicole Antoinette, over at the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin blog A Life Less Bullshit. One of my all-time favourite blogs ever (thanks to one of my other all-time favourites, Superlatively Rude, who told me about it), it basically provides you with periodic pep-talks about going out, getting off your butt, and putting the work in (however small or weak or rubbish you think the first step) to get what you want for your own life.

Its writer, Nicole Antoinette, doesn’t do things half-arsed. Not only has she become a runner from scratch – when once, by her own admission, she much preferred sitting on the sofa eating cookies – but she is planning to RUN ACROSS AMERICA. Seriously. It’s like, what the ACTUAL hell? If she can do that then I can probably manage a jog around the park, or whatever else I want to do.

Yeah, sometimes it feels easier said than done, but generally, her message is – just get out there and do it, and you’ll feel a whole lot better than if you sat there just thinking of excuses why you can’t do it.

As that other inspirational wonder, Jillian Michaels, says in the endless fitness DVDs I do of hers: JUST SHOW UP. Get out there with your trainers on, put on that sports bra, sit down at your writing desk – wherever you need to go – and just show up.

Looking through some of Life Less Bullshit’s tweets, I saw that she had had a canvas bag made with the motto “less bullshit, more awesome”. Well, I WANT ONE. Not sure how to get one (cheeky tweet about it, perhaps!) but wow. And also because you can never have enough canvas bags. RIGHT? Right 🙂

Want…