Release Day Review: How to Be Fine

Release Day Review: How to Be Fine

I am a lonely person.

This isn’t a call for help, or even a call for action. It’s a pause for consideration. A little over three years ago, I moved from Buffalo, New York, to New Jersey. I always imagined myself moving away from home. An hour from one of the cultural hubs of the universe, in one of the most densely populated areas of the United States (or so it feels), I am lonely. 

I know why. I should’ve known this wasn’t going to be easy based on my experience studying abroad. I’ve just always been awkwardly comfortable with my loneliness. My mom calls my brother and me “two only children” because of our differences in ages. As adults we have a great relationship, but as kids we were too developmentally far apart to be more than a thorn in each other’s sides. So as a nearly only child who liked books way too much for her own social good, I got pretty used to being alone, and in turn, I got used to being lonely. 

Which is not healthy. Even before I received this podcast, I had already started making strides to work on my loneliness. While I have a general ease with being alone I noticed I was becoming more irritable, I couldn’t get out of bed easily, and I stopped doing things I enjoyed for the never ending scroll. 

How am I working on this? First, notice I’m outside a lot more. Otherwise, I had no idea which way to turn. I tend to stay away from anything “self help” that isn’t ten minutes long and built as a springboard for action. Give me ten minutes of an idea to try rather than a whole lifestyle guide. 

I considered this podcast pitch a certain level of serendipity. How to Be Fine sounded interesting even without my personal struggles. Americans are not just becoming more lonely but they are becoming more concerned with their loneliness. The hosts are already successful podcasters*, but I decided to give it a try because it sounded interesting, and too helpful to not.

I received the first two episodes to get this review out in time for today’s release. So keep in mind that I’m writing this about only two episodes. Unusually, I found them to be a tandem, rather than a two-parter. Listeners should try to listen to both parts, but they’re not partners in the sense of continuing a narrative story. Episode one is a great interview with a loneliness expert. Episode two is audio diaries from the hosts actually trying out what they talked about with the guest expert. Listening to part two makes a lot more sense with part one, but at the same time I see value on its own. Just not as profound. 

Honestly it may be my discomfort with the genre of self help, but this didn’t feel like a self help podcast until part two. It's on purpose, but it's important to mention when a podcast straddles genres like this.

In episode one, Kristen Meinzer and Jolenta Greenberg have an easy conversation with their guest, Dr Louise Hawkley. It's about this big topic of loneliness, with the tips peppered in and then taken as an outline for part two. I would’ve listened to episode one as just an overview of this problem at hand, and possible solutions for it like you might hear on any science or medicine podcast.This interview has genuine connection between co-hosts and guest in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s self help, and therefore it makes it much more approachable to get to episode two.

Episode two is delightful in its own way. The tips were outlined and broken down with friendly conversation, and then the hosts discussed what they did. It felt more like a self help endeavor, that you were observing. Not necessarily one to try along with Kristen and Jolenta. There’s a recognition that life is hard in these episodes, and that things don’t have to be necessarily about making new connections, as it is about maintaining and deepening the connections you have. One tip from Dr.Hawkley was to exercise with a friend. People who are physically fit are more social and it’s a symbiotic relationship. This doesn’t mean you have to plan a whole new weightlifting lifestyle with a friend you haven’t seen in months - it can be a simple 20 minute walk before work with someone you see regularly. 

The power here isn’t just the fact that the listener is along for a conversation that might spark a deep dive. It’s that in these two 30 minute episodes you have a level of realization and humanity that isn’t selling you something that will magically change your life in five payments of $19.99. Kristin and Jolenta, and even Dr. Hawkley all acknowledge in one way or another how uncomfortable and difficult fighting off loneliness can be. There’s such a simplicity and genuine interest in this one topic in just one episode that gets you ready for the rest of the season.

I glibly tend to mention “there’s too many cares to care about everything”, usually in the sense of advocacy. You’ll burn out. This is the exact same idea that has turned me off of the cacophony of self help. You can’t change your entire life in one go. It’s too many check boxes to try and fill. By tackling loneliness and by breaking it down into this structure of conversation then action, How to Be Fine keeps the practical and informational separate, but on the same team.

Kristen and Jolenta used to host By the Book , and How to Be Fine has taken over its feed. Listen below!

How to Be Fine
Listen to How to Be Fine wherever you get your podcasts!

* I admit I knew nothing about Kristen and Jolenta when the pitch came to my inbox