Illustration of someone listening to a self help podcast
Image: Time Out

The 15 best self-help podcasts

If you’re looking to make a few tweaks to your life, here’s a brilliant array of wise and wonderful self-help podcasts

Andrzej Lukowski

Sometimes, you just really need to sort your life out, and the good news is there are plenty of self-help podcasts out there, covering everything from taking up jogging to decluttering your home.

We’ll be honest: as a rule, this is not a hugely funny or bantersome selection (though there are a couple of more amusing ones). They’re probably not things you’d casually listen to just out of interest. Instead, they’re podcasts you’d use as tools, not just for fun, but to turn specific bits of your life around. Heavy, right? But there’s some great stuff here. You never know: a podcast might just save your life.

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Only a couple of episodes into its eight-show-run at the time of writing, Derren Brown’s new podcast is shaping up very well indeed. In it, the arch (in both senses of the word) illusionist delves into the physical ‘software’ of the brain, with the ambitious promise that he can eliminate your anxiety throughout the series. Whether or not that’s going to prove true, it’s a soothing and effective show that breaks down the workings of the brain in reassuring weekly 30-minutes bites.

Brené Brown is an American research professor who specialises in courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy… all the good stuff, basically. Her hugely successful podcast ‘Unlocking Us’ sees her break down and explain the things that define humanity and reflect the experience of being human, from books, films and music to stories from heavyweight guests. Earnest, yes, but improving.


Northern Irish author Elizabeth Day has made a success out of failure: her book ‘Failology’ is a bestseller, and her podcast ‘How to Fail’ is both an inspirational reminder that very successful people fail too. It is also a pretty funny series in which guests share generally very amusing anecdotes about the road bumps on the way. It’s definitely one of the lighter listens here, heavily defined by the fact that Day and most of her guests are British (ie heavily willing to mock themselves). Guests run the gamut from Deliah Smith to Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Doing pretty much what it says in the title, Dr Laurie Santos’s podcast is there to share the latest (and in fact, the not–so-latest) scientific research on the subject of happiness. It’s definitely on the inspirational rather than ‘dry information dump’ side of its remit, but if you’re looking for a show to make you feel a bit better about life and have hard data to back it up, ‘The Happiness Lab’ is the destination for you. 


Exercise is surely the ultimate form of self-improvement, and there are a surprising number of quite earnest podcasts devoted to the art and, indeed, the science of running. This British one is definitely on the more fun side: it doesn’t in any way dive in at the expert level, but rather follows friends Dev and Sam as they attempt to take up running, chatting in-depth with various sports people along the way and subjecting themselves to sundry gruelling challenges. There’s a catch: only six episodes were made before production stopped due to the pandemic, and it doesn’t look like it’s coming back, but these half-dozen episodes come highly recommended.

This always-interesting podcast from The Women’s Network highlights a different successful woman each week - the twist is that their success always came via unusual routes, be that a surprise career change or without taking the conventional academic route. It’s not a series of career blueprints to be slavishly copied, more a series of inspiring testaments to the value of doing things your own way.


Looking to declutter your life? So are a lot of other people it seems: Netflix-starring Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus’s long-running podcast ‘The Minimalists’ is an enormous hit. While it might at first seem borderline astonishing that the duo have racked up well over 300 biweekly podcasts, it turns out there’s just an awful lot to say on the subject of living minimally, with each episode essentially devoted to looking at how a different part of your life can be pared down and shorn of clutter, from your schedule to sex!

‘Recovery Rocks’ hosts Lisa Smith and Tawny Lara are united by their love of rock music and the fact they’re both recovering addicts. Inevitably a podcast dedicated to recovery is a relatively sober affair (pun intended), but the duo’s peppy self-help tone is warm and approachable, and like many of the shows on this list they find an astonishing number of ways to delve into their subject: episodes range from a look at all the money you’ll save by not drinking to an analysis of Miranda’s struggles with drinking in ‘Sex and the City’ reboot ‘And Just Like That’.


Dietitian Christy Harrison’s long-running series is a must for anyone with a troubled relationship with food or who finds the idea of faddy - or indeed, any - diets stressful. In essence, it’s an anti-diet show, with each week featuring fascinating guests who have something to say on the subject, be that fat acceptance or people recovering from eating disorders. With hundreds of episodes covering a huge range of issues and diets, you may not feel the need to listen to every edition ever made, but if you’ve ever suffered from any sort of food anxiety, there’ll be something in the archives for you.

Let’s be honest: a podcast simply consisting of Oprah Winfrey belching for an hour (not that she belches, but y’know) would be an inspirational, life-enhancing thing. ‘Super Soul’ is obviously not that: it’s where Oprah goes to get deep, with the weekly show focussing on cherry-picked interviews from her TV show’s vaults with thought leaders, wellness experts and spiritual types. Plus: the occasional massively famous celebrity - Oprah ain’t Oprah without her insane contacts book, although superstars aren’t the main focus by any means.


The titular coach is Ashdin Doctor - not actually a doctor (it’s genuinely his surname), but he’s certainly helped a lot of people. The goal of his podcast is not to unlearn bad habits (though there’s a bit of that) but to actually pick up good, useful ones that will help you in life. As you’d expect from an enormously long-running show that puts out several episodes a week, tuning into every episode is not essential, and if you attempted to develop every good habit posited, you’d probably lose your mind. But there’s a huge amount to look back on and dig into, from ways to deal with grief to healthier approaches to taking selfies - and hundreds of other ideas besides.

This long-running podcast from US online magazine Slate is basically an unusually thoughtful and earnest advice column, with bestselling author Amanda Ripley taking on the role of agony aunt. With well over 100 weekly episodes, the dilemmas sent Ripley’s way inevitably vary heavily in weight and tone, and as with many of these podcasts, not every episode will be for everyone. But these half-hour-ish episodes include good, knotty stuff, from dealing with workplace bullying to knowing when it’s time to say goodbye to a problem pet.


Definitely one of the more therapy-esque entries on this list, but you can probably tell from the title alone whether ‘The Calmer You’ is going to be useful to you or not. Presented by hypnotherapist Chloe Brotheridge and a rotating series of guests, it’s an earnest attempt to tackle listers’ anxieties and inner critics to help them live a calmer life. Brotheridge has managed to build up a pretty extensive library of soothing takes that all somehow feel pretty quintessential to life as a calm adult, from coping with workplace stress to making new friends as an adult.

Okay: let’s talk MANIFESTING. This isn’t going to be to everybody’s taste now, but if you’re going to give it a bash, hugely popular manifestation guru Lacy Phillips’s ‘Expanded’ is a decent place to start. In essence, manifesting is the idea that if you raise your self-worth, better things will happen to you as you overcome the limits of your own psyche. Sceptical? Well, the weekly ‘Expanded’ contains a huge number of interviews with those who say it’s done them the world of good. If you’re curious, give it a listen.


There’s a clear and fascinating premise to British entrepreneur and wellness guru Adrienne Herbert’s podcast: what if you reclaim an hour of each day – probably by getting up an hour earlier – to really work on improving yourself and your life? Surely, if you put in that hour (and the issue isn’t that you’re suffering from a chronic lack of sleep), you’ll make some progress. It’s certainly a seductive notion, and Herbert’s podcast is full of ideas of things to do – via in-depth interviews with weekly guests – to improve yourself, from kicking bad habits to taking up pull-ups.

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