Wellness today is a multi-million dollar global industry, encompassing everything from the mundane to the fantastical —from dairy alternatives like nut milks and the latest buzzy sugar replacement (monkfruit, in case you didn’t know) to goat yoga and CBD oil-infused leggings. The thing that’s so attractive about many of these products and practices (though I draw the line at colon cleanses) is not the promise they hold out of changing your life—no one actually believes that—but the seductive idea that they may make your life, like, 10% better, and there’s no harm in trying it. Even as a deep wellness sceptic, managing the wellness section on the Lounge website has nudged me towards trying out a few things I would have scoffed at a few years ago, from (legally procured) CBD oil to a homemade turmeric latte.
Still, a certain amount of scepticism helps keep the balance, especially in these times when people are looking for things that will help them feel like they have some control over their health and wellbeing, and every crystal chakra healer senses an opportunity. The best wellness podcast I have come across recently is actually a satirical take on the entire wellness industry: POOG (which is “GOOP”, the much-reviled wellness platform promoted by Gwyneth Paltrow, spelt backwards) is hosted by comedians Kate Berlant and Jacqueline Novak, two self-confessed wellness addicts who can’t help trying every new fad out there but retain a healthy sense of humour about these fads—and about themselves. “I am not looking for the one solution—to me it’s a joy to briefly believe that there’s something that will cause all the pain to go away and then to seek out the most optimized, lowest cost, easily accessible and attractive version of that thing. And that is POOG,” says Berlant in the introductory episode of the podcast.
That’s not to say there aren’t genuinely helpful wellness podcasts out there, especially those that deal with mental health and seek answers to larger, more philosophical questions that humans have always grappled with, such as the secret of happiness. Along with podcasts like Krista Tippett’s On Being and NPR’s wonderful Invisibilia, which take deep dives into concepts like love, fear, faith, and other invisible forces that shape our lives, there’s The Happiness Lab with Laurie Santos, a Yale University psychology professor who created a hugely popular teaching module based on cutting-edge research into the science of wellbeing and now hosts a podcast based on her blockbuster course, which is available as an online class. Beginning with the teachings of philosophers, from the Greeks and Stoics to Confucius and the Buddha, Santos moves into more scientific territory with themes like movement, mindfulness, the power of rituals, and loneliness to chart a path to happiness which feels like it can be followed.
Along with this, podcasts like Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris and What I’ve Learned with Arianna Huffington make a lot of sense to anyone who has ever struggled with feelings and emotions they can’t name or tame—and if nothing, they make us feel like these thoughts aren’t weird or even unusual. Check them out on a lonely day as you cook dinner—and if you are looking for a laugh, tune in to POOG.