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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 favourite 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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“It’s a gripping story about a real event. It’s interesting to look at how the judicial system handled the situation. The show ends up raising more questions than it answers, but it is definitely worth listening to.”
—Christiano S., graduate student, McGill University, Quebec

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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“I love the dark humour and surreal nature of Cecil’s broadcast. It makes me think differently about the world around me. I find comfort in the fact that no matter what is going on in my life, the perils faced by the citizens of Night Vale are always far greater. It’s hilarious, eerie, and puts things into perspective.”
—Kim K., second-year undergraduate, University of Victoria, British Columbia

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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“It’s unique. I enjoy the community aspect of it and talking to others about Rooster Teeth. And every time Gavin says or does something stupid [in an episode], it puts a smile on my face.”
—Kevin D.*, second-year undergraduate, Toronto Film School, Ontario

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. Happier

For tested happiness strategies

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“How do you break your daily habit of devouring Oreos? Can you train yourself to wash your sweaty running gear before it takes over? And what does that have to do with being happy?”
—Chelsey Taylor, Associate Editor, Student Health 101

Time to get your happy on

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).

5. Stuff You Should Know

For when we don’t know everything already

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“I don’t always have time to watch the news so this keeps me up to date on [what’s happening]. I listen to it on the go. It’s like an auditory newspaper.”
—Tiffany T., third-year undergraduate, Concordia University, Quebec

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.

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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.