For better or worse (and personally, I lean toward better), binge watching is now a part of our culture, and a part of many people’s day-to-day lives. It is one of the ways we build such strong parasocial relationships, and feel connected and in-the-loop when friends, family, and coworkers are talking about the newest hit release.
So binge watching is probably here to stay, even though some research suggests it can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health. For instance, studies have shown that people who watch more than three hours of TV a day (on average), are more at-risk for serious health problems, and that people who binge-watch might be less engaged with their social circle.
How can we relieve some of the mental health toll of plowing through an entire season of your favorite show in a day or a weekend?
- It might be obvious but take breaks. I’m not saying you stop and actually go socialize or do other stuff, but just get up between each episode and walk to the kitchen to get some water, take a pee break, or do some stretches. (Staying on the couch and checking facebook on your phone doesn’t count as a break!) Standing, moving your body, and looking at a not-screen are the parts that matter. If you watch with someone else, take a few minutes to process and chat about the episode you just watched. We can literally get into a kind of brain hole, where we consume without concentration and start to feel foggy. So five to ten minutes between every episode or two is going to actually help you be more engaged with the show, and give your eyes, body, and brain a break.
- Pre-plan some snacks. It’s easy to grab the nearest bag of chips or cookies when you’re in the middle of an episode and can’t tear yourself away to cook. It’s also easy to just dial in some delivery. Of course that’s fun and fine to do sometimes. If you’re binge watching frequently, though, it can really start to take a toll. Luckily, it’s easy to be wise and just pre-plan some snacks or meals. Grab some pre-cut veggies at the store, or whip up your own. Make a sandwich or two that can go in the fridge until you’re ready. Have your fruit bowl in your living room so you can access it easily when you’re cozied up on the couch. You get the idea! Binge watching is generally a pretty sedentary activity, so setting ourselves up to succeed in eating some healthier snacks is a way to still be aware and taking care of our bodies. Some research also suggests that saving our snacks until we’re on a break (like in Tip 1), is actually healthier for us, since we can unintentionally consume more than we intended when we eat and watch TV at the same time.
- When a season or series ends after a dedicated binge watching session, for a lot of us it can elicit a feeling of loss or depression. Luckily these feelings rarely last more than a few days. The sadness is often due to feeling like a relationship has ended, so engaging with other people can relieve some of that distress. Make plans to see a friend, hit up a coworker for lunch, or Skype with your online BFF. The point is, if you’re feeling blue after finishing your newest favorite show, focus back on self-care and connecting with people IRL. Or, you know, just jump right into the next show.
If you’re struggling to make those IRL connections, or feeling increased pressure to binge-watch shows to a distressing degree, therapy can be helpful. Reach out to make an appointment today.