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.
This article contains:
In no particular order, and without bias, let us begin with our own PositivePsychology.com Podcast with hosts Hugo Alberts and Seph Fontane Pennock. The duo shared their first podcast in June 2019. With several episodes under their belt, they have explored a variety of topics including:
- Listening to your emotions,
- Passion, work, and money,
- The dark side of using positive psychology tools,
- Effortless being,
- Positive CBT; and,
- Finding focus amidst distraction.
Most of us can relate to this last one. How often do you take a break from technology or a hiatus from social media?
If you are addicted to Facebook, try the Facebook News Feed Eradicator. Every time you check Facebook you will see inspirational quotes. You can even add more if you like. While the duo does not mention this one, they do discuss several other ways we become distracted and how to manage it.
The objective is to become more attuned to the present. Alberts shared an interesting story about what happened when he was attempting to be in the moment with his children and recording a video at the same time.
Hugo Alberts holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is an accomplished researcher. His focus for the past ten+ years has been the effectiveness of mindfulness. He seeks to shed light on the “how and why” underpinning the successful use of mindfulness in everyday life to positively affect a person’s well-being.
As co-founder of Positive Psychology.com, Alberts also develops many of the tools and exercises available in the Positive Psychology Toolkit. He works in the areas of mindfulness and self-regulation, with individuals and groups and specific positive psychology topics (gratitude, self-determination, and optimism). You can find more information about Hugo Alberts here.
Seph Fontane Pennock is an entrepreneur who began blogging about positive psychology in 2013. Through sharing cutting-edge information about the field, Pennock grew his audience. Along with Alberts, the two have helped countless practitioners and educators worldwide by offering tools, train-the-trainer resources, and well-researched articles.
His particular interest revolves around meaning and what gives life meaning. You can watch him in action at the International Network of Personal Meaning.
Alberts and Pennock share a mission to provide evidence-based tools, exercises, and other resources to help people attain a greater sense of well-being. They strive to help others flourish.
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 in 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 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 most recent episode titled, 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 included 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, Brene 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 well-being. He is the author of several books including, Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization available in April 2020.
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.”
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 titled, The Decline of Empathy and the Rise of Narcissism.
Topics discussed in 2019 include:
- Psychological purpose of nostalgia,
- How memories are manipulated,
- Fake news,
- Healthy workplace,
- Living in a lonely world,
- How to find meaning in life; and more.
This podcast is broader 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 well-being. 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; and,
- 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 – which is 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 Garage Band to create a rap, Kristen invites us to take a deep dive into a variety of subjects. Some are,
- Emotion differentiation,
- Conscious communication,
- Strengths-based parenting,
- Harry Potter and spirituality; and,
- The psychology of trust.
It is a fun and informative podcast with most episodes just under an hour. Truempy completed an MS in applied positive psychology at the University of East London.
Nothing Much Happens
Sleep is essential to well-being and flourishing. No list of positive psychology podcasts is complete without one podcast whose purpose is to help 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 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. Another possibility is 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 above podcasts, 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.
- 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. https://dx.doi.org/10.1212%2FWNL.0b013e3181b01077
- 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