Hello I’m Shannon Harvey – health journalist, filmmaker, author… and podcaster.
In this podcast I’ll take you behind the scenes of my research and projects. You’ll find extended interviews with experts that sadly hit the cutting room floor when I’m making my films and writing my books. You’ll also hear the real-life stories of people I’ve met along the way who are successfully taking a whole-person, whole-life approach to healthy living.
There will be laughter, there will be tears, there will be insights and hopefully inspiration. And of course, as always, the work that I do is independent: sponsorship free, ad free and backed by evidence.
How Food Companies Get Us 'Hooked' On Junk – with Michael Moss (#11)
They're cheap, convenient, practically imperishable, and engineered to be irresistible. They’re called "ultra processed foods" and in the midst of epidemics of diet-related chronic diseases, some nutrition scientists believe they are the smoking gun.
In this week's podcast, Shannon Harvey talks with former New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, Michael Moss about his new best-selling book Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions.
In this episode you'll hear;
Why we're naturally drawn to foods high in salt, sugar and fat and how food companies exploit this. Why our willpower lets us down, even when we want to avoid eating junk food. How nostalgia plays a big role in the foods we crave. That processed food is engineered to be "craveable," aka – addictive. But it's not all bad because Michael also shares some simple life hacks to help us eat healthy food, more often.
Mindful Myths – With Timothea Goddard (#10)
Usually I share interviews with scientists doing research that can shed light on how we can live better, healthier lives. But this week you'll hear from a different kind of expert – a mindfulness teacher who has made a big impact on my life.
Timothea Goddard led the eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course that I participated in during the production of my film My Year of Living Mindfully.
Tim (as she’s affectionately known to us Aussies) is a psychotherapist who has taught more than 2000 students and trained more than 200 new mindfulness teachers. But you might find what she has to say about mindfulness rather surprising.
In this episode you'll hear –
Why trying to find bliss in the present moment is a myth (and a problem, especially if you have anxiety, depression, trauma or chronic pain) How the marketing hype about mindfulness often gets it very wrong That pretty much everyone finds mindfulness training difficult and boring Why learning to turn towards our painful emotions and experiences can be life changing And that life sux, but why we shouldn't take it personally Tim offers mindfulness courses online and in person, and also runs retreats through her organisation Openground.
She also runs rigorous mindfulness teacher certification courses through the Mindfulness Training Institute – Australia and New Zealand.
If you’d like to know more about MBSR from the man who actually developed it, head to the very first episode of this podcast series and look for my interview with Jon Kabat Zinn.
The Importance Of Good Relationships With Robert Waldinger, PhD (#09)
In this episode I’m taking you inside my research files.
When I start to think about a new question or film project, I often don’t really know where it’s going to lead. Over the following weeks, months, or even years, I dive headfirst into the academic journals.
The process often feels like a journey of discovery – sometimes it’s the evidence that amazes me and sometimes it’s the people I get to talk to that leave a lasting impression on how I view the world.
One of those conversations happened late one night as I beamed into the Harvard Medical School to chat with Professor Robert Waldinger – the director of the longest ever study on life and happiness. As well as being a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard he’s also a psychoanalyst and Zen priest.
At the time I had just published my first book, The Whole Health Life and was starting to contemplate what I would tackle next.
His online TED talk has now been watched by more than 37 million people world wide. It was called “What makes a good life?” And I wanted to know more.
The study he’s oversees has been tracking the lives of two groups of men for over 75 years. It now follows the Baby Boomer children of the original participants to understand how childhood experience reaches across decades to affect health and wellbeing.
As you can imagine, the research data is an absolute treasure trove of knowledge about what matters most.
Daniel Goleman, PhD (#8)
I know this sounds crazy but over the course of my latest project – My Year of Living MindfullyI spent more than $30,000 on scientific tests.
A lot of people have asked me why I went to such lengths to get objective measures to see what, if anything, changed as a result of my daily mindfulness training. And my answer is simple. Because I believe that science matters.
You can read a piece called Why I Stopped Looking for Miracles and Started Reading Scienceto get the full story on this, but in essence, it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s, after I’d been sick with an autoimmune disease for a number of years that I finally realised that I needed to apply the critical thinking skills that I’d learned as a journalist to my health. And when it came to my experiment to see if daily mindfulness training could really improve my health and wellbeing – I felt that objective, hard science was important.
This week's podcast episode is my extended interview with science journalist, Daniel Goleman, whose 1995 best-selling book, Emotional Intelligencehelped make the science of emotions mainstream.
More recently Dan co-authored a book called Altered Traitswith neuroscientist Professor Richard Davidson, who was in episode four of my podcast. The two friends met in their university days at Harvard and in the book, wanted to set the record straight on what we do and do notknow about mindfulness.
As a fellow journalist who has dedicated his life to writing about psychological science, Dan was a great starting point as I began to navigate my way through the sometimes murky waters of mindfulness research.
As you’ll hear throughout this interview, he also offers some helpful advice to people who are at just getting started with mindfulness training.
Kristin Neff, PhD (#7)
In this episode I’m talking with the self-compassion pioneer and researcher, Associate Professor Kirstin Neff from the University of Texas.
Although this interview was only briefly used in the documentary film that resulted from the year I spent delving into mindfulness (there was just so much ground to cover in just 96 minutes) it was nevertheless hugely influential on me, and I’m so pleased to be able to share it with you now.
You may have heard me explain before that I’ve come to realise that learning mindfulness – or training to be more aware – is actually a life skill, in the same way as something like reading is a skill.
By learning to read, a whole universe of possibility has opened up to me. But what I choose to do with that life-changing skill – what books or websites I read, which writers I trust or enjoy, what topics I choose, how I invest my time reading – for good or bad, for better or worse – that really matters.
Now, just as reading teaches me to understand words on a page, mindfulness teaches me to know how my mind works. And, like reading, the skill of mindful awareness isn’t actually good or bad. But, what I choose to do with that awareness… that is crucial.
Now for me, like so many other people who have started mindfulness training, one of the first things I became aware of was an incessant mean voice in my head, which took up residence at some point in my childhood.
My inner experience was actually awful. And I really needed to understand the function and purpose of this constant bombardment of self-criticism. So I turned to Kristen, who, fortunately, was the first person to be brave enough to put all this under a psychological microscope.
Judson Brewer, PhD (#06)
If you're interested in learning how your brain works and how to use that knowledge to make healthy changes in your life, then this week's podcast is for you.
This episode is my extended interview with Dr. Judson Brewer, who is an Associate Professor and the Director of Research and Innovation at the Mindfulness Center at Brown University.
You might remember a scene in my film, My Year of Living Mindfully, where I call Jud via Skype to ask if my insomnia has improved because of the placebo effect or if mindfulness has really started "working".
As an addiction psychiatrist and neuroscientist who studies how we form unhealthy habits and routines, Jud is researching mindfulness-based techniques to help us change for good.
I absolutely love Shannon’s podcast. I only wish there were more episodes! Each episode has made such a big difference in my life. I am also reading her book. A Year of Living Mindfully, and am about to watch her documentary. I am so excited! Fantastic. Thank you Shannon.