In Search of Happy Thoughts
June 16, 2015 10:25 PM   Subscribe

I noticed a few days ago that when I started reading before bed the nightmares I've been having for the past few months became less exhausting. Now I've run out of reading material and would love recommendations for some quick reads/videos/etc that I could indulge in before bed and when I wake up in the morning so my mind stops fixating on bad stuff. Share with me your happy thoughts, please!

Yes please:
Puppies and kitties and animals being happy and cute
Real news about genuinely happy, awesome stuff (progress around the world is especially cheering)
Your favorite marriage proposal and baby announcement videos
Really amazing people dancing in vines
Thomas Sanders videos
Funny stuff that doesn't involve politics or social justice topics

No me gusta/stuff that stresses me out more:
Anything Chicken Soup for the Soul, Deepak Chopra, Hay House, etc esque
Regular news sites where articles about animal and human abuse show up with photos and wreck me for hours on end
Motivational slogans

Basically I just need some stuff that makes me fall asleep thinking, "Yes, good things are still going on around the world, how comforting." What would you recommend?

RE: Nightmares; they're coming from work and will likely continue until I get a new job so short term fixes like this will be needed for a while. All other sleep aids (melatonin, Xanax, exercise, etc haven't helped whatsoever, so my doc suggested meditation and reading/watching a video is as close as I can get to being meditative without getting antsy, so... Yeah.
posted by Hermione Granger to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I like to watch the UK panel show QI before bed, sometimes spreading one episode over multiple nights. (I like the "expanded", 45-minute ones on Youtube.) Stephen Fry is a delightful host, and there's something so laid-back and low-stakes about it at the same time that it's genuinely informative. It's relaxing, funny and educational. There are kind of natural "break" points as they move to a new topic, so you can watch 5 minutes or the full 45, depending on your mood.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:55 PM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I like to watch normal people dancing to Pharrell's Happy on YouTube. The British Muslim one attracted some attention here recently, and I think it's fairly adorable and happy-making. But I've never come across one of these videos I disliked, normal people in any given city in the world dancing around ridiculously is just something that makes me smile.

In terms of happy reading, I sometimes read children's books to cheer myself up. My recent bedtime reading has included A Little Princess, The Railway Children, and Alice. YMMV on how soothing you would find these, I think it depends in part on whether you read them as a child and whether you can skate over some old fashioned social assumptions without finding them jarring. There's also always Jane Austen, especially her juvenilia and letters which are funny and silly and don't make you do any of the emotional work of her mature novels.
posted by Aravis76 at 10:59 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have you tried cooking videos? When things are bad I watch Nigella, in all her over the top ridiculousness, and something about the homeliness, and the meditativeness of cooking in general, helps my brain key down a few notches.
posted by geek anachronism at 11:01 PM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, almost anything with Stephen Fry in it works for me, the one where he travels around the US, slightly boring documentaries, etc. Old episodes of Jeeves and Wooster (Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie). I also like My Little Paris Kitchen and Usagi Drop (our library had it). Pleasant and cute and nothing really happens. Little Bill, too - everyday things happen and everything is okay.

Oh, of course: The Darling Buds of May!
Anne of Green Gables, Avonlea.

Blogs and instagram can be good too. I like the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee and Orangette for this kind of reassuring pleasant mellow-ness. Also, check your memail!

Some children's books are surprisingly dark when read as an adult. Beverly Cleary's books are very comforting though (esp the Ramona books).

Prairie Home Companion, streamed online, especially the Lake Woebegone part. My husband and I fall asleep listening to this ALL the time! (We also like Brad Neely's Wizard People Dear Reader, which is a bit sarcastic but very very funny and silly too.)
posted by jrobin276 at 1:48 AM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

My go-to when I feel anxious or down is the Answer Me This podcast. I've gone through a few shitty patches the last few years and on those occasions I've practically mainlined episodes. It is unfailingly funny, upbeat, clever, and lighthearted, and the hosts are witty and have good chemistry.

I first saw it recommended here and have recommended it myself on AskMe lots of times--I always say it's a lot like the lighter questions on Ask Metafilter, with chatfilter allowed. People send in questions and the two hosts, Helen and Olly, answer them. Sometimes Helen's husband Martin the Sound Man will chime in. They answer a range of questions: etiquette, etymology, "What's your favourite _________?", what's the origin of [this phrase, this custom, this object], "Have you ever __________?", practical advice for household problems....

I have yet to be disappointed by an episode, and they're up to #316 now. They charge for the back catalogue in order to cover production costs, but the last 100+ are free.

I love listening to them right before I go to sleep. It always lifts my mood. I hope it does the same for you!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:01 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cute Overload is still going strong.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:24 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cooking shows do the trick for me. I keep copies of "Luke Nguyen's France" on my DVR at all times for this very reason - it's lovely and almost pastoral, a combination of travelogue and outdoor cooking, all shot beautifully.
posted by jbickers at 2:25 AM on June 17, 2015

Episodes of the BBC radio show Unbelievable Truth (previously) have been helping me put the stress out of my head and get to sleep lately. One of the last entries in that previous has links to mp3s. The only difficulty I've had with it is trying not to wake my partner with giggling.
posted by coleboptera at 2:36 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

For the purpose you describe, there's nothing better than the books of James Herriot, who chronicled his career as a country veterinarian starting with "All Creatures Great and Small." Some of the stories are so uplifting and awwww! inspiring that they're only saved from being glurge by the fascinating details of Yorkshire farm life and Herriot's skill as a story teller.

Extra bonus: the book is very episodic, so it's easy to finish a particular storyline in a single sitting.

Light comedy: any of P.G. Wodehouse's works. (True story: I gave a Wodehouse novel to a friend who was about to have a baby. She later told me she was the only one on the OB ward who was laughing out loud.)

Maybe try "Three Men in a Boat." Over a century old, but still full of fresh humor. Kind of a travelogue, lots of wry musings and comical narrative. Social commentary is gentle and focused on another era.

Good luck!
posted by wjm at 4:08 AM on June 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Seconding Unbelieveable Truth and QI, which are my bedtime go-tos. Something about being told mildly interesting facts puts me right to sleep.

Your description also made me think of Yotsuba&!, a manga about the goofy adventures of a 4-year-old child, her spacy adopted dad, and her dad's friends and folks in the neighborhood. The worst thing that happens is at the level of stubbing her toe, she's a pretty realistically portrayed kid, not obnoxiously cutesy, and everyone around her is kind. I like the illustrations, which have lots of lovingly-drawn everyday items and nondescript Japanese neighborhoods.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:53 AM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

When I had similar my godsends were half hour BBC radio comedies, because I could listen to them with my eyes closed, and would often be fast asleep by the time it ended. I found torrents with the whole of The Unbelievable Truth, I'm Sorry I haven't a clue, Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation, Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive and so that's what I'd recommend. They totally saved me when I had PTSD nightmares. I was bereft when my laptop was stolen and I lost 5 years of the news quiz I had accumulated through the friday night comedy podcast.
posted by litereally at 6:26 AM on June 17, 2015

I absolutely LOVE /r/BeforeNAfterAdoption for the quick payoff of sad animal to happy animal. It reminds me that there are a TON of people out there making a huge difference in animals' lives and health.
posted by bookdragoness at 8:16 AM on June 17, 2015

I like the Good News Network
posted by belladonna at 9:56 AM on June 17, 2015

Speaking of cooking shows, the most charming and delightful of all cooking shows, Two Fat Ladies, is now on Amazon. They are great when you're stressed and can't relax.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:42 AM on June 17, 2015

The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell is a super cute, super beautifully illustrated, quick read. Also there is The Bat Poet by the same author/illustrator. Both of these will make you smile big time, and feel like the world is a good place after all. I'll never tire of suggesting these books, they are such a joy to me, and I love the thought of someone else discovering them too.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:56 PM on June 17, 2015

I really enjoy reading articles by Louise Hung on xoJane. When I need a really big mind spacer, I watch Jenna Marbles and Prank vs Prank (Jeana and Jesse) on YouTube.

I have the same problem as you and have to clear my mind and be thinking about something else before sleep or work will kill me.

Those are my go tos right now.
posted by Georgia Is All Out Of Smokes at 4:56 PM on June 17, 2015

If you want kittens--and who doesn't--I have been watching Eve & the Palindromes grow up on tiny There are other kittens, too. This is a cat & kitten foster home for rescues, so good things happening for these adorable families. If the kittens are sleeping, there are videos of their past activities. Archives of past litters, too, so lots of happy kittens!

Seconding Lake Woebegone--not everyone's cup of tea, but Garrison Keillor was at the National Press Club recently and in his speech he joked about how many people put it on for babies/little kids to lull them to sleep. He does have sonorous voice.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 8:10 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

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