Using a purely unscientific approach, and not considering download numbers or even reviews, here is a brief list of positive psychology podcasts that will:
- Make you laugh
- Teach you about yourself
- Teach you about other people
- Help you experience awe and wonder
- Help you question what you believe you already know about happiness
- Encourage you to live life on purpose
While each of these podcasts might not be specifically about positive psychology, they often include topics within this field. Explore, listen, and feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.
To keep things simple, the following podcasts all are available via Apple Podcasts unless otherwise noted.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.
This Article Contains:
The Science of Happiness
Two researchers from the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley launched an uber-popular course in 2014. The goal? Teach people the science of living a happy, meaningful life. Since that time, 450,000+ students have registered for the course. Taught by Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas, students cover everything from awe and gratitude to resilience and mindsets.
Fast forward to January 2018, and the first podcast episode, hosted by Keltner, introduced listeners to what they could expect from the new show. Their “happiness guinea pigs” try a technique and report back every episode. All the while, Keltner and his team offer explanations of the research that backs up the tools.
The discussions are lively, insightful, and honest. Most of the episodes are “potato chip” length: done in less than 30 minutes. This is perfect for the average commuter.
The first episode launched on February 5, 2018, and covered 3 Good Things. This is a technique used in positive psychology that helps a person shift their perspective. It is a reflective process that opens you up to what is going well in your day.
The Psychology Podcast
Dr. Scott Berry Kaufman hosts a show that teaches you all about the mind, brain, behavior, and creativity. With 179 episodes from which to choose, you are sure to find a plethora of useful information. The episode Humanizing Evil explores several taboo topics like BDSM, porn, how kink is stigmatized, vegan shaming, and more. His guest, Dr. Julia Shaw, is an expert in memory and criminal psychology.
Not every episode covers such touchy subjects. Previous shows include a discussion about the neuroscience of intelligence and creativity, highly sensitive people, and the power of passion and perseverance. His guest list has included Jordan Peterson, Angela Duckworth, Todd Kashdan, Brené Brown, and Kristin Neff, among others.
Kaufman describes himself as a humanistic psychologist who explores the “depths of human potential.” His research interests focus on creativity and wellbeing. He is the author of several books, including Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization.
All in the Mind
This podcast, also available through player.fm, explores everything from addiction to artificial intelligence. Hosted by Lynne Malcolm, the Australian-based show brings leading experts into the studio to offer insights into the mind, brain, and behavior. It is a weekly podcast.
In the podcast Music and the Brain, we learn the unique challenges involved in studying how music affects the brain. The equipment needed is not always conducive to this, especially if the researcher wants to study cultural differences. Taking a PET scanner into the field is not usually possible.
We also learn how musical preferences activate the Default Mode Network (DMN) in the brain. The DMN is described as what makes us “us.” This episode includes an excellent explanation of how neurons develop, get pruned, and affect learning. It also answers how music affects the aging brain. Dr. Hodges references the “nun study” (Iacono et al., 2009).
Speaking of Psychology
The first episode taught listeners the ins and outs of teaching social skills to teens with autism. Covering every facet of a person’s psychological experience is one of the goals of the show. For example, how do mirror neurons affect empathy?
Dr. Sara Konrath explains the connection in the episode The Decline of Empathy and the Rise of Narcissism.
Other topics have included:
- Psychological purpose of nostalgia
- How memories are manipulated
- Fake news
- Healthy workplace
- Living in a lonely world
- How to find meaning in life
This podcast is broad in scope, much like the previous two. Because it has been in production for a number of years, there is a lot to learn and explore.
The Happiness Lab With Dr. Laurie Santos
This research-based program is engaging, entertaining, and thought provoking. Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos explores all facets of happiness and wellbeing. Her class is the most popular in the school’s 300-year history. She discusses, along with expert guests, topics like:
- Laughter, including “canned” laughter and how it affects us
- How too many choices exhaust us
- The negative effects of grades
- How the brain gets stuck on things
- The downside to positivity
The Make ‘em Laugh episode is a great introduction to this podcast. In it, you learn how you are influenced by other people’s behavior, particularly laughter. The host also highlights research about how an inability to express facial expressions negatively affects us.
We are behavioral chameleons and experience emotional contagion. This episode explains the research around these ideas with straightforward, real-world examples.
The Positive Psychology Podcast
Anyone who can put together a positive psychology rap is worth spending a little time listening to. Kristen Truempy calls it Kintsukuroi – the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery.
We use positive psychology tools and exercises to help us mend the broken pieces that invade our thoughts and infect our actions. The rap aired June 2, 2019, and is two minutes of rolling insight.
In addition to playing with GarageBand to create a rap, Kristen invites us to take a deep dive into a variety of subjects, including:
- Emotion differentiation
- Conscious communication
- Strengths-based parenting
- Harry Potter and spirituality
- The psychology of trust
It is a fun and informative podcast with most episodes just under an hour long. Truempy completed an MS in applied positive psychology at the University of East London.
Nothing Much Happens
Sleep is essential to wellbeing and flourishing. No list of positive psychology podcasts is complete without one podcast with the purpose of helping us sleep better. Each episode is a bedtime story for grown-ups in which “nothing much happens, you feel good, and then you fall asleep.” This has got to be one of the best show descriptions ever created.
Kathryn Nicolai’s voice is soothing, measured, reassuring, and calming. She is someone you can spend hours listening to, but you do not need to because you will fall asleep fast. Nicolai writes all of the stories.
Best Podcast Players
There are several podcast player apps from which to choose, so explore until you find the one that fits your needs. Some offer paid features.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Overcast, for Apple devices
- Pocket Cast
- Player FM
- Podcast Addict
They each offer something a little different. Some have better search algorithms to help you find niche shows that might interest you. Once you settle on one or two, you can easily add your favorite shows to a playlist. Offline listening varies.
A Take-Home Message
If you have never listened to any podcasts, this is a fabulous place to begin your journey. Podcasts and podcast players are free (for the most part) tools that encourage us to pursue a life of continuous learning.
Morning, evening, and afternoon commutes are perfect times to add them to your day. Other listening possibilities include while making dinner, relaxing by a pool, or when you are a solo diner in a restaurant.
With the diversity and variety offered by the podcasts above, you will always find something interesting and engaging to listen to and share with others.
What has been your favorite positive psychology podcast episode? Let us know in the comment section. We love hearing from you.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.
- Iacono, D., Markesbery, W.R., Gross, M., Pletnikova, O., Rodow, G., Zandi, P., & Troncoso, J.C. (2009). The nun study: Clinically silent AD, neuronal hypertrophy, and linguistic skills in early life. Neurology, 73(9), 665–673.
- Kaufman, S.B. (Host). (2014–present). The psychology podcast [Audio podcast]. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-psychology-podcast/id942777522
- Keltner, D. (Host). (2015–present). The science of happiness [Audio podcast]. PRI. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-science-of-happiness/id1340505607
- Luna, K. (Host). (2013–present). Speaking of psychology [Audio podcast]. APA. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/speaking-of-psychology/id705934263
- Malcolm, L. (Host). (2018–present). All in the mind [Audio podcast]. ABC Podcasts. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/all-in-the-mind/id73330911
- Nicolai, K. (Host). (2018–present). Nothing much happens [Audio podcast]. Curiouscast. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/nothing-much-happens-bedtime-stories-for-grown-ups/id1378040733
- Santos, L. (Host). (2019, July 24–present). The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos [Audio podcast]. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-happiness-lab-with-dr-laurie-santos/id1474245040
- Truempy, K. (Host). (2014–present). The positive psychology podcast [Audio podcast]. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/positive-psychology-podcast-bringing-science-happiness/id912190084