How Podcasts Keep Me Sane: 5 Surprising Ways

I couldn't help but take this shot of the blooms intersecting the path.

be_a_bigger_vesselIf you and I were lounging at a coffee shop, I’d be curious to hear what you’re up to, but I’d also want to know how you’re really feeling. Not one for small talk, I’d probably tell you my real deal as well. And if we’d been meeting regularly, you’d already know all about my tendency to seek out new ways to improve my state of being.

Personal development fascinates me, but in the past five years or so, it’s also become a necessity. I’m a lucky one who experiences mild depression and anxiety, which of course you’d already know. As with the countless others blessed with this condition, I’m usually on the lookout for ways to keep it at bay.

leaves_in_path
One of my favorite ways to stay sane is photography walks. The act of putting one foot in front of the other is meditative on its own. What turns the experience into pure luxury, though, is taking photos along the way.

Slow Down Your Insomniac Monkey Brain

Thanks to my techie man, I recently made an unexpected discovery. Podcasts helped lessen my insomnia. This was no small feat, as I’d wrestled with it off and on for years. Insomnia breeds relentless thoughts. If you’ve ever experienced monkey brain in the middle of the night, you’ll appreciate the power of anything that can calm it down.

As it happens, distraction has been surprisingly effective for me. Turning off my screwball worries thoughts and replacing them with others’ ideas, is usually enough to put me to sleep. I began by listening to meditation episodes. Over time, I progressed to other non-stressful topics like wellness. Generally, in the half hour or so it takes to get me from awake to asleep, I learn something new while I’m at it.

mushrooms
I came across these beauties on a walk in my neighborhood. I couldn’t tell you how long I spent crafting this shot, but that’s precisely why I find the process so healing.

If you’re curious about how this works: I play my podcasts through Stitcher, which knits content together like a custom radio station. It also helps me organize my podcasts into categories. At night, I listen with my ipod, complete with headphones so I won’t wake my sweetie. I download episodes into the Listen Later feature, which allows me to put the device in airplane mode and avoid having a wi-fi signal near my head.

Listen to Positive Voices During Walks, Commutes, or Workouts

Over time I incorporated podcasts into other parts of my life: workouts, walks, and commutes. This isn’t to say I’m consuming podcast content all the time. But I have found it helpful to have my podcasts ready when I need them. When I find myself obsessively repeating a conversation in my head–say, on the drive home from work–instead I hit play on an interview with a writer or entrepreneur. It’s amazing how quickly my attitude improves when I focus on positivity and knowledge.  Hearing the voices of can-do types reminds me of what I, too, can do.

I couldn't help but take this shot of the blooms intersecting the path.
I couldn’t help but go for this shot of blooms intersecting the path.

Learn Some Healthy Moves

Wellness is a popular podcast category, and I’ll tell you, I eat it right up. One show that’s become a comfort to me is The Healthy Moving Podcast with Jennifer Hoffman. In fewer than 15 minutes, each episode brings an appealing combination of physiology, stories, relatability, and how-to’s. In her encouraging tone, Hoffman has provided me with strategies for easing worry with movement, setting up a dynamic workstation, and navigating uncomfortable transitions.

My hope for this one was to set a mood. I wanted it to capture the hazy quiet of this particular morning.
My hope for this one was to set a mood. I wanted it to capture the hazy quiet of this particular morning.

Her episode that’s stood out to me the most, though, is Be a Bigger Vessel. I heard it this past spring, yet it’s stuck with me ever since. It’s centered around a breathing exercise that expands the thoracic muscles. As Hoffman points out, too much of the fitness industry is focused on making us smaller, especially–and now for a quick editorial from me–if we happen to be a woman. Instead, Hoffman encourages us to think about the benefits of becoming bigger.

Expand Your Mindset

Expanding our breath feels good. But so does expanding our mindset. If we can find a way to see ourselves as bigger, we become capable of holding more. The key, though, is that we must choose what to put in our newly enlarged vessel. I like the part when Hoffman asks us listeners to think about what we’d like to make more room for in our lives. She then provides her own answer, which is so good I couldn’t come up with a better one if I tried: more margin.

canada_geese
Encountering a gaggle of these dudes is a common occurrence on my walks. Sure, Canada Geese want nothing to do with me, but I find them amusing and I just plain like the guys.

Let Yourself Be

As someone who spends waaaay too much time running from place to place, the idea of creating more margin sounds divine. More unplanned time to sit and simply be. More space around my brain to cultivate new ideas. More time to recover from whatever the last task was, which–let’s be honest–probably wore me out. More time to walk and, yes, take photos with care. For me, this will require a new discipline of saying no a little more often. Wait, a lot more often. But I’m committed to making it happen. I believe the extra margin will be worth it.

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What About You?

As always . . . now I’d like to hear from you. Do you listen to podcasts? What are your faves? More importantly, what would you like to make more margin for in your life, and how will you go about doing it?