I LOVE Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, Amazon video, HBO……….. the list goes on. I’m an active subscriber, I pay for everything, and even the ad-free versions when available. Clearly, a lot of other people enjoy these screen-related indulgences, too. In fact, one survey done by Netflix found that 73% of their participants reported positive feelings associated with binge-watching.
Humans are social creatures, this we know for certain. It makes sense that if we have access to entertainment, especially with other humans involved in it, we’ll choose it over sitting and blankly staring at a wall. We like emotionally-charged stories because of our ability to recognize the feelings of others. This whole concept of empathy allows us to adopt others’ psychological perspectives, including those of fictional characters we enjoy watching on TV. We become emotionally attached to plots and characters, making watching TV, not unlike a form of socializing.
Yes, your mom was probably right that sitting in front of the TV for too long is bad for you, but there are also a bunch of positive factors involved with getting into a good show. Below are some studies that will help you feel better about spending your time off this winter binge watching.
- We tend to seek out emotional shows because they make us feel more competent and in control during emotionally difficult situations. We actually get feelings about our feelings while watching.
- Watching TV can restore your self-control. The characters and fictional worlds we become invested in become familiar and can actually act as a version of friendship(s). We gain comfort from the familiar, which in turn can help us to fight off impulses.
- Shows in different locations than our own can calm us and even give us energy. In one study, participants reported feeling generous and positive after consuming.
- Binge watching can help us to tune out the stress and pressures of everyday life. When you’re tuned to someone else’s problem (fictional or not) it stops us from thinking about our own problems.
- Seeing complex emotions, (and a variety of them) can help us to correctly identify the emotions being conveyed in photos of human faces when compared to those who watch non-fiction or avoid from watching TV in general.
- Watching shows with human emotion and compassion can make us more kind and more altruistic toward others who are different from us.
- Watching high-quality shows can boost your overall emotional intelligence and empathy.
Our bodies like to like things. When we engage in enjoyable activities our brains produce dopamine, giving us the internal reward of pleasure that reinforces continued engagement in that activity. It is the brain’s signal that communicates to the body saying “I like this, keep doing it!” But be careful, most forms of positive stimulus can be addictive. Your body will want to keep producing more dopamine, so make sure you know when to get up off the couch and do something else; try giving yourself a time or episode limit.
But with all of this said, in moderation, enjoy your couch time!
If you’ve got some spare time over the Holidays, check out some of our favorite feel-good shows:
Where to start? Body positivity, sex acceptance, and bashing taboos?? This show radiates what is good in the world right now. Follow a single mom, Bridgette and her son, Larry Bird just trying to make it and get laid while juggling pretty hefty responsibilities.
quote from the show:
Recruitment Consultant: Moving on, do you have any special skills?
Bridgette: Yes… basketball.
Recruitment Consultant: You know, I think I might actually have an opening in prostitution.
Bridgette: As in, prostitution?
Recruitment Consultant: It’s actually perfect for you. Make your own hours, pays great. Recession proof.
Bridgette: I dunno, do you have anything prostitution adjacent?
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
A ’50s housewife with an incredible Upper West Side apartment, two kids, and a seemingly wonderful life has to rebuild after her husband leaves her for his secretary. She’s witty, honest, and becomes a kick-ass comedian. Women’s lib, hello.
quote from the show:
Department Store HR: You’re delightful, but I’m not sure being an elevator operator is the right fit for you.
Midge: Oh but, I have such a passion for it, I grew up with one my whole life, my sweet Jerry. I feel like my whole life has been leading up to this.
Department Store HR: Your whole life?
The Good Place
What happens when you wake up dead? Sounds morbid, but this show is anything but. It’s okay to be you, embrace it, but maybe try to be the best you can.
quote from the show:
Chidi: I am not going to have sex with someone to get them to stop talking to me.
Eleanor: Really? You and I are very different.
Chidi: Yeah, I noticed.
Following the life story of a young woman convicted of two murders in 1843 has never been so thrilling. This woman has been through hell and back yet managed to be posied and put together giving you a look into all of the rights we tend to take for granted today. Also, this gem is brought to you by the same author as The Handmaids Tale, Margaret Atwood.
quote from the show:
If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged.
In today’s society, we tend to place a great deal of pressure on ourselves to be constantly hustling, producing, earning money, getting fit, socializing, and climbing those social, educational, and career ladders. We are constantly barraged with images of other individuals’ success on account of social media, and at times it can feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. For example, have you ever spent some time watching TV and fallen into a cycle of self-shame, wondering why you would waste time or wishing you had have used that time for something “productive”? Most of us have, and if you’ve felt these feelings, you can attest to the fact that they are not productive and making yourself feel bad can often do the opposite of motivating you.
Here’s the thing, operating from spaces of guilt or shame is not beneficial for anyone! If you are tired, relax. If you enjoy a TV show, keep watching! If something that you are doing is making you feel good, at ease, calm, happy, or all of the above, let yourself feel its benefits rather than telling yourself you shouldn’t be. If you sit down to watch a show and you fall into one of these “I shouldn’t be doing this right now” cycles, hop up, do something that makes you feel accomplished (even just a quick tidy of your room), and reward yourself when you’re done with that episode you’ve been dying to watch.
There are far too much guilt and shame floating around these days, particularly in regards to the way in which we treat ourselves. This Holiday season we’d like to challenge you all to give yourself a break, be shameless about relaxing and giving your body/mind what it needs and deserves, and treat yourself! You deserve it!