Emerging in the early 2000s, podcasts have certainly gained momentum. “From 2008 to 2021, the average percentage of Americans aged 12 and older who listened to a podcast within the last month jumped from 9 percent to 41 percent” (Tutt, 2021). Now there are about 1.7 million podcasts available to listen to, and the number is growing every day (The Nielsen Company, 2021).
What’s the appeal?
In a day where it’s hard to find time to sit down to read, podcasts offer you a chance to learn, reflect, grow, or immerse yourself in a story on the go. So whether you’re commuting to work, grading papers, taking a walk, or driving your kids to practice, you can take some well-deserved time to do something for yourself. And the best part, they can even boost your mood!
Podcasts Are Good For Your Brain
Just the simple act of listening and consuming information fires up your brain’s “mesolimbic pathway, also known as the “reward pathway,” releasing dopamine throughout the brain” (Malach, 2020). Dopamine is a chemical that helps us “feel-good”. Other parts of your brain can also be affected resulting in all the good feelings. For example, “a 2016 study out of UC Berkeley concluded that listening to narrative stories (much like podcasts) can stimulate multiple parts of your brain — so whether it’s that adrenaline rush you get from true crime podcasts or a comedy podcast that boosts your endorphins, there’s truly something out there for everyone” (Malach, 2020).
The following highlights several types of podcasts and the mood enhancing benefits you may experience by listening.
Disclaimer: PLS Classes does not endorse or get reimbursed for featuring any of the podcasts in this article.
Podcasts That Teach You
In a recent NPR article, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon, medical reporter and writer, talked about ways we can keep our brains sharp as we age. He said, “The act of experiencing something new — or even doing something that’s typical for you, but in a different way — can all generate these new brain cells” (Gross, 2021). Even the act of plugging into a podcast for the first time is doing something new. And there are so many podcasts out there that can teach you new skills. So whether you are learning about new ways to teach important lessons in the classroom (The Cult of Pedagogy) or how to make your garden grow this summer (The Epic Gardening Podcast), chances are you can find several podcasts that fit your interests.
Podcasts That Thrill You
Fans of true crime rejoice. There is an entire library filled with incredible stories that are sure to leave you on the edge of your seat. A few fan favorites, such as Serial, S-Town, and Case File will have you binge listening in no time. Tuning into thrilling stories activates your pituitary gland releasing endorphins. This can be addicting and leaves you eager to find out what happens next.
Podcasts That Calm You
There are plenty of podcasts designed to calm your mind and help you focus. For example, there are some that feature guided meditations that help you turn inward in order to turn down all of the noise and stress around you. When you listen to a meditation podcast, your brain releases oxytocin which can reduce stress and anxiety (Malach, 2020). If you’re new to meditation, try The Mindful Minute where you’ll practice breath work, or Untangle where you’ll hear from real people and experts about the benefits of mindfulness meditation and how it can change your life.
Podcasts That Inspire You
Looking to reflect and grow personally, professionally, or both? There are a lot of insightful podcasts that feature interviews with successful and interesting people, and others that share leadership best practices or fascinating stories. In each, you’ll find nuggets of wisdom that you can try to apply to your life. Scared to take the next step in your career? Want to change careers completely? Burned out as a mom? Chances are you’ll find someone or something to relate to. We recommend Shattered Glass which features stories of extraordinary women who shatter the glass ceiling and Making Space with Hoda Kotb where you’ll discover how to make space for whatever it is you may be seeking in life right now.
Podcasts That Make You Laugh
“Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh (Robinson, 2022). So if laughter really is the best way to make you feel better, why not check out the hundreds of podcasts dedicated to the cause? Fans of The Office might enjoy the hilarious Office Ladies staring two of your favorite characters from Dunder Mifflin, actresses Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey,
Sometimes All You Need is a Little ‘Me’ Time to Boost Your Mood
Podcasts are a terrific way to take a break and focus on YOU. Because if you don’t take care of you first, how will you take care of others? If you’re still not convinced podcasts might be for you, you might want to start with audiobooks. Listening to an audiobook can have all of the same great benefits that we touched upon above.
P.S. Looking for more recommendations? We put together a list of some our PLS Classes Instructor’s favorite podcasts.
Gross, T. (2021, January 4). To ‘keep sharp’ this year, keep learning, advises neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta. NPR. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/01/04/953188905/to-keep-sharp-this-year-keep-learning-advises-neurosurgeon-sanjay-gupta
Malach, H. (2020, September 22). Why listening to podcasts is good for your brain. Good Housekeeping. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/wellness/a34100126/podcast-brain-benefits/#:~:text=A%202016%20study%20out%20of,something%20out%20there%20for%20everyone
Robinson, L. (2022, February 8). Laughter is the best medicine. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm
The Nielsen Company. (2021). February 2021 podcasting today – nielsen. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.nielsen.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2021/02/Nielsen-Podcasting-Today-Feb-2021.pdf
Tutt, P. (2021, August 28). 13 educator-approved podcasts to listen to this year. Edutopia. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/13-educator-approved-podcasts-listen-year