podcasts and music are destroying your idle time
think more clearly by turning down the volume
There’s some synapse firing in your brain at all times. So you’re thinking about something, consciously or unconsciously at every moment.
I think I relate to the world in music. When I have idle moments, random songs pop into my head. A couple days ago Bump Bump Bump by B2K and P. Diddy came to mind and the radio station on Spotify is such nostalgia.
But that wouldn’t have come to mind if I didn’t allow my mind to be idle for more than a moment.
And I’m not just talking about not consciously thinking about something. When you add on constant audio consumption (streaming music, podcasts, listening to the radio) on top of all the consumption we’re already doing (Netflix, articles, social media) we strip ourselves from that idle time to strengthen preexisting mental pathways. That re-firing of existing pathways is what ties our past knowledge and experiences together.
I used to think it was bad to talk to yourself. I don’t remember when exactly, but I recall someone laughing or thinking it was weird that I talked to myself when I was younger. And me, having not decided who I was at the time, changed my behavior and reverted to singing songs in my head. In retrospect, that was such a waste of brain cycles. While I believe music has a good purpose, I’d intuitively understand more things if I had spent that idle time thinking about a subject I was learning in school instead.
When I started talking to myself, I became aware. I began paying attention to my thoughts and actions. I started to change them. You can’t do personal development without talking to yourself. Journalling is just you talking to yourself in writing.
There’s something inexplicable about that idle time, and Alex Danco captures it in his piece, The Audio Revolution, Part Two.
A few months ago, I stopped listening to podcasts.
ever since I’ve stopped, I’ve noticed something change about my own writing and thinking. My brain is quieter. It’s clearer, and easier to navigate; like the gain on an amplifier had been cranked up for a long time, and we forgot about it, and only when you turn it down do you realize, “Hey that was a lot”. I think my weekly writing has gotten better in that period of time, and I’ve had a few readers email me and ask if I’ve been doing anything differently. That might be it.
Only after taking them off do you realize that headphones aren’t all that good for you. There’s a lot of discussion about screen time and how scrolling feeds and glowing screens are having bad effects on us, but a lot less discussion about constant audio stimulation.
When you’re just with silence and your thoughts, you pay more attention to the physical world. Since I started Inner Monolog, I’ve been doing more thinking than listening.
When I hopped on the treadmill yesterday (it’s cold where I live don’t judge me), I noticed my talus joints were tight. Pushing myself forward was uncomfortable, I felt the popping of air pockets between my bones. This was after stretching. My body was telling me I went from 0-6 mph too quickly. So, I slowed down and gradually sped back up. For some personality types, constant hyperawareness to detail comes naturally, but not for me.
Idle cycles give you space to think. They foster heightened awareness and cognition.
Today’s call to action
Go for a week with no headphones and no car radio. See how it feels. It’s an easier experiment to try than going real cold turkey and putting your phone away for an entire day. See what happens when you turn down the gain on your brain’s high-discrimination, hot processing mode.