I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly telling myself to slow down. I’m always connected, always multitasking, and always moving full-speed ahead. Even though I know how important taking a break and unplugging is, I’m terrible at it. I like the idea of slowing down in theory, but I never know how to actually make it happen. So when I discovered slow radio, I knew I had to tune in for myself.
Slow radio isn’t a new concept, but it’s gained momentum in recent months. I assume it’s grown in popularity because many people like me are looking for practical ways to slow their brains down.
So, what is slow radio?
In short, it’s basically programming that moves at a very casual pace. It immerses you in sound to help you stay grounded in the present.
Is slow radio music, meditation, a catalog of sounds, or a podcast? The short answer: Yes. When you turn on slow radio, you won’t find any one thing in particular. One episode, you’ll get lost in ambient nature sounds. The next, you’ll hear slow-paced conversations about music. After that, you’ll take a trip through a soundscape on a bustling street in Japan.
The beauty of slow radio is that you can turn it on and forget about it.
In many ways, it’s the Crock-Pot of radio programming. There are no lyrics to interpret or conversation threads to keep up with. Or, you can get lost listening intently if you choose. At its core, slow radio is background noise. But it’s intelligent, purposeful background noise. Slow radio can be as active or as passive a listening experience as you’d like.
When I began my slow radio education, I went right to the source. I listened to BCC Radio 3’s Slow Radio podcast for a week, and it was quite an enjoyable experience. Episodes, which range from 15 to 30 minutes, are calming, relaxing, and surprisingly insightful.
I took a deep breath, cleared my mind, and dove in headfirst.
And I immediately liked what I heard. “Slow Radio: an antidote to today’s frenzied world,” one episode begins. “This is your chance to take time out and simply immerse yourself in sound,” starts another. As I mentioned, no two episodes are the same. “Nightingales” showcases a duet between a Japanese flute and a nightingale. “Dementia voices” features conversations with people living with dementia. “Life on a shanty boat” takes you on a ride down the Tennessee River.
My favorite episode, “Forgotten Sounds,” is simply 30 minutes of uninterrupted white noise made by various now-obsolete objects: clacking typewriters, whirring ticket-printing machines, weaving looms. This episode, to me, represents everything that slow radio has to offer. It’s unobtrusive—aside from a short introduction, there are no spoken words—but it stays with you. The night after listening to the episode, or even days later, I’d find myself thinking, “What other sounds do I no longer hear in the world anymore? And what sounds do I hear right now that I one day won’t?”
I used slow radio to help me focus during the workday and found it to be an extremely enjoyable experience. As the week went on, I found myself looking forward to sitting down at my desk so I could turn it on. Currently, there are only 14 episodes of the BBC Radio 3’s podcast; you could easily listen to all of them in one workday. Throughout the week, I let them play on a loop. But I never got tired of hearing the same episodes. And, inevitably, I noticed something new about each one every time it played.
Did listening to slow radio make me slow down myself?
Yes and no. I didn’t completely change the pace of my life in just a week’s time. But slow radio did gently nudge me to stop moving a million miles a minute. It was a nice, calm—but constant—reminder to take a deep breath and live in the moment. The world moves faster and faster every day. If we don’t stop and listen now, it might not be an option soon.
I highly recommend listening to slow radio at work, on your lunch break, or on your commute. It feels good to get in touch with a slower way of life. If you’re seeking to slow down your pace, it helps to listen to others who are doing it as well.
Some people might find slow radio a little too slow. It’s definitely not for everyone—at least not all the time. If you crave music or programming packed with information, slow radio might not be your speed. But there are times when your ears and your brain need a breather. The next time you need a break from content, turn to slow radio. I know I will. I think you’ll like it, even for just 15 minutes.