People say I do not shut up about podcasts. It is what it is. At face value, many closely associate podcasts with watching daytime television or binging the latest Netflix series. However, when you thoughtfully examine the experience, podcasts are far closer in purpose to reading. Think about it - audiobooks are essentially podcasts on steroids. Luckily, regardless of our podcast of choice, our brains thank us for a unique mental and emotional outlet.
Silence makes me uncomfortable. I am unsure exactly why or when it happened, but I have tried incorporating white noise into my daily routine in recent years. Whether walking into work or getting my morning Dunkies, most people will find me with an earbud in at least one ear. Music is excellent, but especially since I listen to music on repeat (overshare), you can only stay in one lane for so long.
Sports talk radio, a version of a daily podcast, was where it all started. Particularly with The Zolak & Bertrand Show on Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub, I would tune in at work on a low volume, which I found incredibly helpful for focusing on tasks. I liked that it stimulated my brain and connected me to an outlet even while at work.
Sports and aviation have always been the two predominant areas of my life. Thus, listening to too much sports talk started to feel detrimental and out of balance. I came across a couple of comedy podcasts, the genre I enjoy the most. Comedy movies, especially dry humor, are my specialty. It was all over once I found podcasts that aligned with this characteristic.
The Sciency Part
Much science has revealed how little interests like podcasts can do wonders for our brains, so we will not have time for all of it today. Similar to our recent discussion on mindfulness, there are takeaways we can focus on to highlight what a good pod can do to ease some of the stress we have between flights.
Pass the time. Think about a chore you dread. For me, that is the laundry. There used to be a time when I enjoyed laundry, but now it is just too complex. I always forget an item or two, and my ironing skills leave much to be desired. While we are at it, I feel the same way about cooking.
Tossing on a podcast will help us passively concentrate on a task we enjoy. Our ability to reframe these tasks and associate them with more positivity motivates us to move forward. We distract our negative perception in favor of a far more comforting thought.
Grow your imagination. How our brains process information received through podcasts differs from reading and puts more emphasis on the part of our brain in charge of inventing. In their purest form, podcasts without a live recording mostly do not give any visual cues, leaving us to do the heavy lifting.
Science also says we pay more attention to podcasts than reading or watching television. This study claims there is less investment effort-wise since reading requires translating text to the brain, and tv has visual and audio tracks. Even when we are background listening, we retain far more information than other media.
Podcasts, and their number of listeners, are on the rise.
Stimulate the brain. Our minds are complex in many ways. However, podcasts give us a unique way to activate parts of the brain conducive to health. Studies show podcasting will increase empathy, foster relationships, and boost our compassion.
Further, science also shows that listening to meditation-focused podcasts can cause the brain to release a neurotransmitter called oxytocin, otherwise known as the “love hormone.” This genre of podcasts will also help amplify our mindfulness, allowing us to throw two strikes with one pitch.
Your vocabulary will also thank you. Listening to others will subconsciously grow your word bank and allow our discussions to mature over time. We will also become stronger listeners and more attentive to minute details, such as changes in the inflection of others’ voices. Finally, studies show that we will improve our attention span and multitasking ability, as we mostly listen to podcasts while continuing our days.
Reduce screen time. I get a lot of crap from people for my inattentiveness to my phone, especially on my days off, but without unplugging, I would not be the same. Sometimes, this would solve many other problems if others did the same. Unplugging requires balancing a line for managers, but we do not need to always be “on” as much as we think we do.
Part of this effort is to turn on a podcast and forget our phones exist. Instead of doom scrolling through TikTok, a podcast activates our brains more productively while providing the same stimulation. Even before sleep, I climb into bed far more relaxed than if I was scrolling through all that is wrong with the world. Not to mention, we now know that harmful blue lights emitted from screens adversely affect our health.
Learn something new every day. Even with my vast arsenal of comedy podcasts, there is always something new I am learning. My favorite comedian, Chris Distefano, is a major history buff, so I know far more now about history than ever. Many educational podcasts expound on topics you may find interesting, such as psychology or astrology (really any “ology”).
There is always something interesting to discover. My favorite podcast, Hey Babe with Chris Distefano and Sal Vulcano from Impractical Jokers, for instance, has helped me learn the ins and outs of New York City. Maybe this is my fear of being boring personified, but I try incorporating these fun facts into daily conversation. Did you know otters hold hands when they sleep so they don't drift apart?
Podcasts can make you happy - finally, the whole point of this blog. Particularly for comedy podcasts, your body’s chemical reaction to humor is acutely beneficial for your health. When your mind hears something funny, your frontal lobe sends an electrical wave to your cerebral cortex, making you laugh. Dailing up a comedy podcast on a rainy day can get you through it with a smile.
I've given you the basic facts, but it is up to you to find the podcasts that fit your taste. If you can think of it, odds are there is a podcast for it. A few to start with that I can think of from authors I have significantly benefitted from:
“The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday.
“Jocko Podcast” by Jocko Willink.
“Dear Hank & John” with John Green and his brother, Hank.
There are others I enjoy, as well. I really enjoy a podcast centered around mental health called It’s Fine, I’m Fine, which releases episodes seasonally. If you are looking for comedy, message me so I can point you in many directions. Life is too short not to laugh, and most well-known standup comedians have podcasts. In addition to Chris DiStefano, I enjoy Chad & JT, Bobby Lee & Andrew Santino, and many associated acts, particularly those based in New York City.
Like anything else, you do not know what you are missing until you try it! Like me, you might find some motivational white noise is just what you need to boost morale, increase productivity and enhance your relationships with others.