By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff
December is one of my favorite months! There are lots of holidays and (it seems like) more opportunities to celebrate together with friends & family. The holiday I enjoy celebrating the most during this month is Yule. Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice, is celebrated today & tonight on December 21st, “this is the longest night of the year, meaning that despite the cold winter, the days get progressively longer after the winter solstice. The winter solstice is celebrated by many people around the world as the beginning of the return of the sun, and darkness turning into light.” Generally, on Yule/the winter solstice my framily (friends who are more like family) and I gather around the fireplace, drink mulled cider, exchange small gifts, play board games, eat a cake decorated with a sun on it, burn the yule log, and just enjoy time together. “The yule log is a remnant of the bonfires that the people would set ablaze at the time of winter solstice. These bonfires symbolized the return of the Sun.” In recent years, we’ve also claimed The Main Drag’s “A Jagged Gorgeous Winter” as our holiday song!
During these dark months, I often feel much less motivated and have found that listening to podcasts can be really motivating for me. I really don’t feel like doing the laundry or dishes or cleaning in general, but I’ve found that if I put an interesting podcast on, I can distract my brain a little and get some work done (or maybe reward my brain for doing the work!). I think of podcasts as a form of Assistive Technology as they’ve gotten me through some mentally & emotionally challenging times in my life.
Though I know some friends who listen to podcasts, I’ve found that many people still haven’t heard about them or know how to listen & enjoy them. I’ve written this post to try to help with that. If you’re not currently listening, I think you’d really enjoy podcasts if you gave them a try :)! So let’s start at the top, what’s a podcast?
“Podcasts are free audio programs distributed over the Internet. You can download them and listen to them as you please, essentially creating a radio station focused entirely on the topics you want to listen to. There are podcasts out there covering almost any topic that you can imagine – and probably dozens of podcasts on that topic. Because you can choose programs that match your interests and can swap programs in and out as you wish, it becomes much like having a customized radio station for yourself that you can even take with you wherever you go if you have a smartphone.”
The Podcast Host has created a great guide, How Do I Listen to a Podcast?, that will help you get started, “Here we look at the different ways that you can listen to a podcast, from Smartphone to smart speaker.” Podcasts can also be enjoyed on your desktop computer and even in your car. In the car, I especially love that I don’t have to listen through songs I don’t like or NPR shows I’m not particularly interested in. I can be my own radio show programmer! My favorite way to listen is by using the Stitcher podcast app on my iPhone (also an Android app). I load the app, scroll through shows I’ve saved, and search for new shows I might enjoy. There are built in help features so if I forget how to do something, the app reminds me. 🙂 The Stitcher podcast app is free and so are the shows I listen to on there (they do offer a paid, premium version, but I feel like I need it).
As I was preparing & planning to write this post, I started to think about podcasts I wanted to recommend. Then, I had a better idea: include what others AND I like. There are so many different podcasts that cover so many different topics! From America’s Test Kitchen to Anderson Cooper 360; the topics & show choices are endless. Here are a few suggestions from people in my life; my own recommendations are at the bottom of the list. If you listen to podcasts, what do you listen to? Comment! 🙂
Katie W’s recommendations: I listen to Buffering the Vampire Slayer-which is about…Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Each week the hosts watch episodes one at a time (it starts from the pilot and as of right now they’re in season 3), and they discuss the episode. I also just started Rupaul: What’s the Tee? with Rupaul and Michelle Visage-they basically just pick a topic and talk about it. Usually relating it back to their own life
Greg’s recommendations: Tanis, Rabbits, & The Black Tapes are all great sci-fi/horror stuff. Wolf 359 is a more comedy leaning space adventure. If you’re interested in history, History On Fire is a great in depth look at a variety of historical figures and eras. If you like old time radio, Thrilling Adventure Hour is a comedic spin on that style.
Katie C’s recommendation: She-Explores is my favorite! It focuses on women’s adventures in the outdoors. It’s empowering, inspiring, and often includes good story telling.
Bri’s recommendation: The only one I listen to with loyal regularity is Thinking Sideways. It’s a round table style (two men and a woman) discussion on an unsolved mystery each week. They cover true crime, cryptozoology, mystery people, conspiracies you name it. They have great chemistry and I like their approach.
Jesse’s recommendation: The Fantasy Focus Football podcast; I listen to stay up to date so I can manage my fantasy football team.
Mike’s recommendations: I like listening to podcasts while I’m driving. I like Intercepted, it’s political and keeps people in check. Pod Save America is a good political one; some of the hosts used to work for Obama when he was in office. Adventure Zone is fun; people get together & play d&d (Dungeons and Dragons)! And Radiolab has interesting stories that are compelling.
Arika’s recommendations: The Longest Shortest Time is a good parenting one. Majority 54 & Pod Save the People are a good political ones. Dear Sugar is a realistic advice column podcast. Oprah’s Super Soul features Oprah herself talking about spiritual things with different people.
- This American Life‘s show usually focus on topics all of us usually have a relation to (like topics of conversation over dinner). I like this show because the stories shared on there seem to somehow better connect us all/make us more aware of each others’ life experiences.
- The No Sleep podcast is a horror fiction show with voice actors who read fantastic stories! I can’t see scary movies or shows, but I can listen to podcasts and enjoy the creativity of the stories shared!
- Anderson Cooper 360! My partner and I don’t have cable and thus don’t have access to watching Anderson’s nightly news show. BUT this audio version of his show is a pretty good free option. I like & respect Anderson Cooper and appreciate the multiple, different points of view represented on his show.
- Game of Thrones podcast! After I watch this show with my partner, he usually has to go to bed and I don’t get to recap/chat about the episode with him. This show features 2 hosts who recap the episode, talk about theories, and read listener feedback. I often will learn about things I didn’t pick up during the show and hear interesting takes on the various characters & their motivations.