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How Podcasts Boost Mental Health

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

I often recommend listening to podcasts to my clients as a tool to help distract their ruminating thoughts are podcasts. Podcasts are in the same realm as music in that it can take you out of your head and help you focus your thoughts on something outside of yourself. What podcasts do differently though is broaden your mind to new information and sometimes even help you feel less isolated in the world. Here are a few reasons why listening to podcasts can boost mental health:

1. It can relieve anxiety

We as humans are less likely to do an activity when it causes anxiety or fear. Thus, we might avoid the situation so that we do not have to experience discomfort and distress. A healthy distraction, such as a podcast, can actually be a way to gain an initial sense of relief from our anxiety and reduce the overall intensity of these symptoms. If something is bothering us, listening to an engaging podcast can be an adaptable way to handle a stressful moment so we can work through an uncomfortable situation. Focusing on something less anxiety-provoking can also give us a sense of control over our anxious thoughts so they do not take command over us.

2. It can increase mindfulness

Mindfulness is about is being in the moment and doing one thing at a time. While listening to an engaging podcast, we can practice mindfulness by solely focusing on the sounds and words being said. By doing this, we do not allow other thoughts or worries to come into our mind. Mindfully listening to a podcast can prevent thoughts from completely flooding and overwhelming us.

3. It creates empathy and connection 

Many people on podcasts disclose their own personal struggles, which can help a person feel less alone in their own personal struggles. In one podcast I listen to, the hosts frequently discuss their struggles with their mental health and the benefits they have received from therapy. They regularly receive feedback from listeners about how helpful it is to hear that another person is going through the same experience as themselves and how they appreciate their candor. There can be comfort in knowing you are not alone in managing your mental health.

There are currently over 750, 000 podcasts focused on many different issues. There are podcasts that are primarily focused on mental health and some that are focused on a specific subject and comedy. The following are some of the podcasts that I currently recommend to my clients:

The Mental Illness Happy Hour An in-depth conversation with a comedian and his guest with a focus on mental health, traumatic life experiences and negative thinking. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

Childish
Candid conversation between two comedians about the personal struggles that come with being a parent. The hosts also frequently discuss the personal struggles and triumphs that come with their own mental health journey. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

The Hilarious World of Depression 
Conversations with top comedians about their struggles with depression and anxiety in an attempt to end the stigma that surrounds these disorders. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

Note: Some of these podcasts use an explicit language so if this is a concern for you, look for the “E” symbol next to a podcast episode to see if it falls in this category.


References

Agarwal, P. (2018, June 18) Seven Podcasts for Mental Health and Well-Being. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/pragyaagarwaleurope/2018/06/18/seven-podcasts-for-mental-health/#1404e06b233f

Beck, A. (2017, August 3) The Use of Distraction in the Treatment of Anxiety. Retrieved from https://beckinstitute.org/the-use-of-distraction-in-the-treatment-of-anxiety/

Fitzsimmons, G. & Rosen, A. Childish Podcast. Podcast retrieved from http://childishpod.com/

Gilmartin, P. The Mental Illness Happy Hour. Podcast retrieved from https://mentalpod.com/
Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Winn, R. (2019, June 1). 2019 Podcast Stats & Facts (New Research from June 2019). Podcast Insights. Retrieved from
https://www.podcastinsights.com/podcast-statistics/

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