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6 Podcasts for Reflection and Restoration

Starter episode: “Mojave Phone Booth

As open discussions of mental health have finally inched their way into the mainstream, there’s been a wave of podcasts that invites listeners into real-life therapy sessions, pioneered by the couples therapist Esther Perel and her insightful series “Where Should We Begin?” “Dear Therapists” offers a slightly different spin, as the therapists Lori Gottlieb and Guy Winch provide on-air counseling to people who submit their problems. The format plays like an in-depth aural version of an advice column: Each episode begins with listeners sharing their situation, then Gottlieb and Winch delve into their history, patterns and coping mechanisms and offer their own insights. There’s plenty of actionable advice, but there’s also plenty of compelling human drama.

Starter episode: “Melissa’s Stifled Emotions

Think of “Optimal Living Daily” as an audio blog, or perhaps a series of bite-size audiobooks, rather than a traditional show. In each day’s episode, host Justin Malik reads an article or blog entry on subjects ranging from productivity to psychology and personal finance. Running less than 10 minutes apiece, these installments are well suited to busy schedules, and Malik’s deliberately calm, almost monotonous delivery makes for a uniquely soothing listening experience.

Starter episode: “Why Are We Always Looking for Certainty in Our Lives

“A meditative podcast about cereal” might sound like a punchline, but think about it: There aren’t many foods with as much of a built-in nostalgia factor as breakfast cereal, and establishments like New York’s Milk Bar and London’s now-shuttered Cereal Killer Cafe have cashed in on that appeal in recent years. And given the sheer volume of options available in the cereal aisle, there’s no shortage of material. All of which is to say that the McElroy brothers — podcasting powerhouses best known for their advice show, “My Brother, My Brother and Me” — knew exactly what they were doing when they started “The Empty Bowl.” A low-stakes mix of cereal news and charmingly meandering conversation, co-hosted by Justin McElroy and the cereal blogger Dan Goubert, this quirky show is guaranteed to chill you out.

Starter episode: “One

Nobody likes to be told that they’re wrong, and yet the journalists Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes have created a successful podcast by doing exactly that. But the show’s title refers to public perception more than anything else. In each episode, Marshall and Hobbes explore the story of a person, event or situation that has been widely misunderstood, reveal the misconceptions and talk about why they took hold. The subjects are reliably fascinating — recent episodes have focused on the fallout from the anti-Iraq War stance taken by the Dixie Chicks (now known as the Chicks) in the 2000s, the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit and the debate over so-called cancel culture — and even when the subject matter is dark, the hosts’ palpable empathy, sincerity and playfulness make listening a joy. After three years, Hobbes recently departed the show, but Marshall is still releasing new episodes featuring guest hosts, most recently a conversation about the Reconstruction era with Jamelle Bouie, an Opinion writer for The New York Times.

Starter episode: “Princess Diana Part 1: The Courtship

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