The Benefits of Listening to Podcasts

Image: Mohammad Metri
Since I was never really a huge fan of talk radio, I was mostly ambivalent when I first heard about podcasts. My initial thought was that podcasts would be a quickly passing trend.

I was so wrong.

Podcasts are far more than a trend, and there are hundreds -- if not thousands -- of new podcasts popping up around the world every day. Yes, they vary greatly in quality, but the point is: People love podcasts. And they can't get enough.

Podcasts Are Free

There are a wide variety of podcasts to choose from -- everything from true crime to parenting tips to the daily news and everything in between -- AND the vast majority of podcasts are free.

I surprised myself when I quickly became hooked to a handful of podcasts. My favourites are Science Vs, Freakonomics Radio, Hidden Brain, Note to Self, The Allusionist, and Waking Up.

To listen to podcasts, I use a podcast app called Pocket Casts. Though it was a few dollars to download, most podcast players are free. Search for podcast apps in the Google Play Store or in the Apple App Store on your Android or iPhone.

I have Pocket Casts set to automatically download the podcasts I listen to, so I always have a new selection of episodes to choose from. As a type A personality, I find it difficult to sit still and listen to anything without also doing something. So I'll typically listen to podcasts while cooking, driving, getting ready in the morning, or even while doing a few yoga poses.

Image: Reynier Carl

Podcasts Stimulate the Mind

Most days, I'd rather listen to a podcast or read a book than watch a TV show or movie. Don't get me wrong. I love Netflix almost as much as the next person, but reading a book and listening to a podcast seem to trigger a deeper use of imagination. To me, this means that more of my brain is being used and I'm a more active participant in the information that I'm consuming.

Not to mention, I've learned so much from listening to podcasts. Because of the use of imagination -- imagining both the speaker and the events and concepts that the speaker describes -- I am more inclined to remember the information being shared. I'm more inclined to have an emotional connection to the content as well.

Research shows that when emotion is tied to information, the information will be stored more readily in the brain and/or the information will be retrieved more easily from memory.

Looking back over these past three years of being a podcast lover, I have a stronger emotional response to the podcasts I've listened to than the TV shows or films I've watched.

Podcasts Are Inspiring

I surprised myself when I became an enthusiastic consumer of podcasts. I surprised myself even more when I started my own podcast in 2017, called Humans of Earth. Humans of Earth started as an offshoot of a written profile series I'd started in 2016. I was quite afraid to start my own podcast, because I knew nothing about audio editing. I quickly fell in love with the process, though, and I'm still hooked.

Podcasting is a quick and efficient way of sharing information and showcasing the life and work of the guests I feature on my podcast. Research is involved, just like in writing, but I find the process of recording a podcast to be quicker than writing an article.

Podcasts have inspired me in other ways. As a journalist, several of my ideas for articles have come directly or indirectly from podcast episodes. Podcast material has also inspired changes in my perspectives on particular topics. The honey bee crisis is one recent example, thanks to Science Vs and their Bee-pocalypse episode.

Feel free to share your favourite podcasts in the comment section. And let me know what you like most about podcasts.