Podcasts for Mental Wellbeing
Navigating the podcast landscape and finding the gems can be a time-consuming task. Michael Lewarne generously shares his favourite podcasts (with links!), with topics ranging from mental wellbeing to workplace culture and unforgettable one-off episodes.
Anyone that’s willing to indulge me will know I love podcasts. They’re my refuge and academe. They’re good for me and good for my work. They’re a brilliant resource for wellbeing.
I have my reliable go-tos I’ll listen to as they’re delivered, but of late my podcast listening ambition far outweighs the time I have to listen. Slowly the episodes are piling up. So they go into rotation. Some podcasts I recommend here are old flames and others are current beaus.
The list here includes podcasts that directly address wellbeing and some that look at the conditions in which wellbeing thrives. I’ve grouped them into loose categories for those seeking something specific.
There are more podcasts specifically on mental wellbeing and mindfulness than you can shake a stick at. They go from the spiritual to the scientific. Best to find the one that suits your way of being in the world. I tend to dip in and out of these podcasts according to my headspace and need.
Full disclosure, Mary Freer is a good friend of mine. I just think she’s a beautiful human and her podcast reflects her care in the world and that of her insightful guests in the second season. It’s like you’re having a one on one conversation with her.
Krista Tippett was one of the originals in this space. Her beautifully heartfelt and thoughtful interviews are a delight. She attracts extraordinary humans to her podcast. It can be daunting knowing where to start with new podcasts and On Being generously points you to some favourites here.
Dan Harris’s journey from journalist to major advocate for meditation is astonishing. He brings a curious and questioning mind to his work and his interviews. There’s much to learn from him and his guests. One for the more scientifically minded and those who doubt the value of a meditation practice.
An Australian podcast with Australian guests. This is for the humans (ie everyone) who may think they’re alone in the way they’re feeling, or those caught in a shame spiral for their shortcomings. We’re all imperfect and these wonderful interviews shine a light on the failures, doubts and mistakes we all make, rather than on the highlight reels we see on social media.
There’s an entire spectrum of podcasts on workplaces and workplace behaviours. Find the ones that resonate and you’re able to readily apply what you learn. These are the ones I’ve found most useful. Noting too that everyone that knows me, knows I’m a fan of Adam Grant’s podcasts and books – so I’m biased – but his podcasts are compulsory.
Atlassian has an incredible work culture. They also generously share what they’ve tried and learnt, as well as what they do and how they do it in their Work Life blog. Their podcast is an extension of that as a series of case studies on certain topics and organisations. Supporting us in learning from others.
Adam Grant is an organisational psychologist, and all his work is based on scientific thinking and psychological studies. He’s a thoughtful and generous interviewer, with an amazing recall of studies and other people’s thinking. This is the podcast I’ve learnt the most from, albeit coming from a low base. It’s my go-to podcast for reframing my thinking around work and the workplace. You might find yourself re-listening, in order to take it all in.
A podcast from the ABC covering similar ground to Work Life, in a slightly more abridged and accessible way. Lisa Leong is another generous and thoughtful interviewer who is able to draw out the best insights from her broad array of wonderful guests. I like the brevity of this podcast. It’s an easy one to quickly digest and get through.
DON’T PUT ME IN A BOX
These podcasts aren’t entirely one thing or another. I might have titled this ‘learn from other lives’, but not all of them fit that specifically. It might be closer to describe them as the wisdom of others, but perhaps that’s presumptuous of me. Every single podcast here is brilliant, and there’s seldom an episode in any of them where I don’t learn something useful, have some great insight, or where they uncover a little more about myself and others.
Dr. Maya Shankar is a cognitive scientist, interviewing the famous and the anonymous but no less extraordinary humans. She “blends compassionate storytelling with the science of human behaviour to help us understand who we are, and who we become, in the face of a big change”. I can’t put it any better than they already have.
I’ve lumped these three together for no other reason than Brené Brown, Simon Sinek and Adam Grant have had a number of incredible three-way conversations on each other’s podcasts (the three are all friends). Seek out those combined podcasts first for an introduction into their incredible minds and thinking (you should be able find the combined conversations in each of their feeds).
They’re amongst the finest thinkers around leadership, how to lead, and on creating the conditions in which humans may become their best possible selves – one of the roles of leaders. At first blush these may not appear to be podcasts about wellbeing, but they 100% are. Leaders are responsible for the culture of an organisation, and culture is key to wellbeing in the workplace.
I suggest this for the sceptical or cynical about the self-help industry. Mark Manson blows all that up and does “self-help” in a way that is truly helpful and accessible to those that might not want the fluff, guilt-trips or the nebulous. Each episode is clearly titled with what’s ‘inside’ so it’s easy to navigate to your needs and interests.
ONE OF A KIND
There are so many brilliant podcast episodes I’ve heard it’s challenging to find them again (I need a system for it). But these three I won’t ever forget for their OMG moments. And I know I’m not alone in that. In doing my minimal research before writing this, I discovered “The psychopaths among us” was the third most shared podcast in Australia on Apple Podcasts in 2023. In “Show Up Before You’re Ready” from around the 35-minute mark to the end slowly blew my mind. When I was listening to Diana Chapman’s interview with Tim Ferriss on a long drive, there was a moment of brilliance (among many) that so stunned me, I almost drove off the road.
I’ll just leave the episode descriptions here.
“When lawyer and author David Gillespie was working in a small team everything was going swimmingly. Everyone liked each other, they got along well, and felt like they were working towards a goal that was bigger than them. But when a new member joined the team, things very quickly spiralled out of control … David’s experience at work sent him on a mission to find out exactly what psychopaths are, when he realised he might have been working with one.”
on Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert
“Elizabeth Gilbert takes a deep dive into the some of the season’s themes with writer and activist Glennon Doyle Melton. They talk about Melton’s trajectory from blogger to best-selling author, and she offers a benediction to the eight creators who shared their stories this season.”
Diana Chapman — How to Get Unstuck, Do “The Work,” Take Radical Responsibility, and Reduce Drama in Your Life
on The Tim Ferriss Show
“Diana Chapman is a co-founder of the Conscious Leadership Group and a co-author of the book The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. Her passion is to help organisational leaders and their teams eliminate drama in the workplace and beyond. She has worked with more than 1,000 CEOs and is a well-respected facilitator for the Young Presidents Organisation (YPO), working with their forums and chapters worldwide.”
Michael Lewarne is an architect and coach – but not in that order.
After almost 30 years in practice and three years coaching in Seth Godin’s altMBA, he stepped away to focus on how leadership can advance the profession. Understanding architectural practice from the inside out, Michael now helps architects at all levels become better leaders so they can be more productive, more innovative, and less stressed.
Michael is also a member of the ACA NSW/ACT Committee and the Facilitator of the AMWF NSW/ACT.
Read more about Michael and his work here.