Maverick Life


Psychology and self-help podcasts that also explore human vulnerabilities

Image design bhy Leila Dougan

Looking for answers or just needing not to feel alone, facing your own fears? The audio world might offer some help.  

Much like the publishing industry, the podcast landscape is saturated with self-help content. There are hundreds of shows promising to make us happier, richer, fitter or a combination of all three, to be taken with a high dose of scepticism. And yet, although promises of quick fixes for complex problems might sound naïve, some podcasts, interviews, conversations and other personal stories can act as a soothing balm for the anxious mind.    

Unlocking Us – Brené Brown

Length: 13 episodes, each between 30 minutes – 1.5 hours.

Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts or any other podcast app or streaming service

Wildly popular researcher, author and TED Talk speaker Brené Brown, launched a podcast early this year. Called Unlocking Us, the show features insights from Brown’s work on shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy as well as conversations with researchers, authors and artists. If you’ve read any of Brown’s books or watched her TED Talks, you’ll know what an engaging speaker she is. Her new foray into the digital audio-sphere is no exception. Underpinned by decades of research and brought alive by personal anecdotes, Brown uses storytelling to make space for vulnerable conversations. 


The Happiness Lab with Dr Laurie Santos – Pushkin Industries

Length: 2 seasons, 10 episodes per season, 30 minutes per episode

Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts or any other podcast app or streaming service

Underpinning The Happiness Lab are insights from Dr Laurie Santos’s popular Yale course Psychology and the Good Life. In this podcast, as in the class, Santos bridges the gap between academic research and applicable lessons for everyday life. With help from Pushkin Industries that brought us Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, this show combines narrative storytelling with interviews to create a podcast that goes beyond the typical two-way interview format that dominates the health and wellness genre. This makes for an engaging listen that relies on story to bring the data to life. Whether she’s talking about money, jobs or the perfect holiday, Santos busts the myths that any single thing can bring us happiness. This is an important intervention in a field promising deceptively quick fixes. But don’t despair, there are plenty of practical and achievable tips contained in this show.


No Feeling is Final – Honor Eastly (ABC Radio)

Length: 6 episodes, 30 minutes each

Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts or any other podcast app or streaming service

Using innovative sound design, No Feeling is Final is an Australian memoir show about big feelings. Our host, the charming Honor Eastly, tells the story of her own struggle with mental health – depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. It’s heavy territory, but told with tenderness and humour. This first-person audio series is stitched together from intimate moments recorded via phone voice memos complemented with high-quality production that literally gives voice to the persistent mean thoughts inside Honor’s head. This disarmingly vulnerable series explores why it’s so hard to ask for help and offers up alternatives for cultivating joy and connection when you’re overwhelmed with big feelings. No Feeling is Final won the 2019 Third Coast International Audio Festival’s Director’s Choice Award.

Trigger warning: This show discusses suicide.


Hidden Brain – NPR

Hidden Brain

Length: Episodes between 30 minutes – 1 hour

Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts or any other podcast app or streaming service

With almost 300 episodes, Hidden Brain is a veteran public radio show that began as a Slate column by the same name. Using a question as the starting point for each episode, host Shankur Vedantam and his team draw on science and storytelling to reveal the invisible patterns of human behaviour. The magic of this show is how it makes complex academic research accessible to a wider audience without dumbing down any of the content. Vedantam doesn’t shy away from tackling the big questions: Why is marriage so hard? How do we get unstuck? What makes us successful? To these he offers nuanced answers that help us understand ourselves and others a little better.


Brain on Nature – Sarah Allely

Length: 6 episodes, 30 minutes each

Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts or any other podcast app or streaming service

Over six episodes, journalist and independent producer Sarah Allely, charts her recovery from a mild traumatic brain injury and how she found healing in unexpected places. After a bicycle accident on the streets of Sydney in 2015, Allely feels like her brain is constantly stretched to capacity. Listening to podcasts, reading books and watching movies feels impossible. In the first episode, Allely notes that after her accident, her brain felt like an audio recorder, taking in everything at the same volume and overloading her senses. This sensory overload is masterfully reflected in the sound design with background ambient sound swelling and subsiding to mirror Allely’s experience. Sound cues chaos, but also hope. We are immersed in lush field recordings of the Australian bush alongside Allely as she discovers healing in nature. While we may not all be in Allely’s shoes, many of us are feeling anxious and overwhelmed right now, and maybe we all need to pay a little more attention to the calming powers of nature.

If you’re wondering how to listen to these audio gems, local podcast organisation, Sound Africa, has prepared a handy guide to show you how.

Happy listening! DM/ML

Missed the last edition of our weekly podcast review? Here it is:

A must-listen: Pulitzer Prize-winning podcasts




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