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Are you scrolling helplessly through your playlist? As you’re walking to class, commuting, or wishing you had a kitten to photograph in your coffee cup for Instagram, why not try a new kind of phone fix? Podcasts help us become more mindful of our downtime. Choose one that shakes up your perspective, tells a gripping story, or makes you laugh (good stress relief). We asked students and SH101 staff about their favorite podcasts, and it turns out that a lot of you listen in.

1. Serial

For brain work that won’t get graded

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“Everything from the cadence of the narration and simple soundtrack to the relentlessly dedicated host and riveting story make it easy to binge on.”
—Savannah G., third-year undergraduate, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado

Dun dun duuuuuun

If you like crime shows but you find most scripted series too predictable, Serial will keep you enthralled. Follow the twists and turns of a reporter’s investigation into a real-life murder in Season 1. Two high school students’ lives have been ruined; one murdered, another jailed for life on weak evidence. Did the suspect do it?

2. Welcome to Night Vale

For when life feels too predictable

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“Virtually a mash-up of an audio book and a podcast. It has silly moments and rather serious ones. It may not serve an academic purpose, but the music coupled with the calming voice of the host helps me clear my mind and relax.”
—Kaitlin H., second-year undergraduate, Mount Ida College, Massachusetts

Now go get weirded out

Listen in to the fictional local radio station of Night Vale and find yourself in a small desert town where there’s a blinking red light coming from an unknown source and a five-headed dragon who wants to be mayor. The superficially conventional townspeople get involved in plots that wouldn’t be out of place in Stephen King’s novels.

3. Rooster Teeth

For when we wish our best friends had a radio show

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“Hilarious, sometimes crude, and talks about a wide variety of subjects.”
—Caitlin B., first-year student, Berkshire Community College, Massachusetts

It’s OK to be a gamer or pop-culture nerd

If you’re a gamer or movie buff, this podcast is a must. The Rooster Teeth panel dissects, discusses, and parodies everything from Minecraft to Hellboy to popular trailers and blockbusters. As addictions go, this one’s way fun and almost scarily harmless.

4. His & Hers

For when we need to reinvent the sports fix

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“Most sports podcasts will do a Super Bowl mock draft or dream team, but His & Hers did a ‘Best Super Bowl party snack draft.’ Cue: a heated conversation about whether hummus worked.”
—Tom Haley, relationship manager, Student Health 101

Anyway, how did Batman get into baseball?

Hosts Michael Smith and Jemele Hill add a pop-culture twist that takes the conversation far beyond stats and typical talking points. Discussions might (and often do) include whether or not Batman is a superhero. They aren’t afraid to turn the spotlight on themselves by discussing the media’s mixed influence on sports.

5. Stuff You Should Know

For when we don’t know everything already

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“There’s one on almost any topic so you can find what you’re interested in. Or if you just listen to all of them, like I do, you will learn about topics that you didn’t know existed.”
—Alex C., fifth-year undergraduate, Drexel University, Pennsylvania

How to get smarter & livelier effortlessly

Think of it as an encyclopedia you would relish reading. Learn the intriguing history of PEZ (those weird-headed candy dispensers), how spiders work, what’s the deal with blood types, and a squillion other things you didn’t know you needed to know. This is a podcast that will make you smarter (and a riveting conversationalist) without you even noticing.

6. 99% Invisible

For looking through a funkier lens

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“It often feels like you’re being let in on a secret about the world of design. Roman Mars and his team provide insightful storytelling, which makes listening a break from my day and offers an opportunity to learn something new.”
—Drew A., fifth-year student, University of Guelph, Ontario

New angle, new details, new you

99% Invisible deals with art and architecture, focusing on features that we often fail to notice or think about. Navigate through history with a fresh perspective, discovering new connections all around you. You might learn about the use of sound in the Hannibal TV series or the how the design of Sigmund Freud’s couch influenced his psychoanalysis.

Bonus! Time to get your happy on

Happier

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Happier is a podcast by Gretchen Rubin, who researches happiness and the habits that lead to it. She and her sister chime in on what makes us happier and how those strategies are working (or not) in their own lives. Each episode, they award a gold star for taking a step toward happiness; e.g., if they said no to something they didn’t have time for (speaking of, see in this issue Can’t say no? 8 ways to take back your time).


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Joanna Carmona is communications coordinator at the National Patient Safety Foundation. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Student Health 101. She has also edited collegiate textbooks for Cengage Learning and creating language learning materials for the US Department of Defense, libraries, and other educational institutions. Her BA in Spanish is from the University of New Hampshire.