Th`k: The Benefit to Bingeing
At some point during Covid, I sat up from the permanent dent in my sofa and exclaimed, “I have seen all of Netflix!” Like many folks, no work, no visiting with friends, and no outside entertainment left us all slaves to that one constant, that one beacon of hope, the glorious distraction that is binge-watching.
I binged watched everything (except Tiger King, yeah, I’m that one person) including shows I’d already seen. Seasons upon seasons of anything I could get my hands on. I could have turned my attention to a plethora of other activities. I could have planted a garden, learned to play a musical instrument, taken up knitting, painted my house…oh wait, I did that one. The point is that the one thing we all had, that we complain to have too little of, was time. So why did I waste so much of it binge-watching tv shows? I won’t deny it often left me feeling unproductive and a bit worthless so why did I find so much solace and outright reward from this? Perhaps it goes a little deeper than laziness or lack of motivation due to depression during such a trying time in our community and the world at large.
There are a few legitimate positive side effects to binge-watching.
First, binge-watching offers a form of social connection. If you’re one of the many, many, MANY individuals who were brave or desperate enough to work their way through Tiger King, you know that every social media platform was sharing in your excitement and shock over what seemed like just insane individuals. It’s called a “shared cultural space”. And while we were unable to connect at the water cooler, we managed to connect and relate to others over social media and Zoom meetings.
Binge-watching can also be beneficial to romantic partners offering a joint activity that can last longer than a single evening. When restaurants were closed date night quickly became a bit stagnate and uneventful. Yet finding a common interest in a show meant dimming the lights, sitting down together, and sharing an experience. And all the better for those couples who were separated, giving them a set topic to connect through in discussion.
Couples therapy aside even binging a show alone can release the mother of all pleasure hormones, dopamine. It’s like cheese or chocolate without the calories. Psychologists actually believe that binging can give a person that ever-desired feeling of control over their lives, which was something else Covid swiped from us. For me, TV has always been a way to escape the stress of my day, the world, and whatever may be consuming my thoughts. It provided a solid distraction from those stressors. Even for a few hours. Sometimes that’s all you need to put those heavy thoughts away. Plus, there’s mental and emotional gratification in being able to complete a story in a single shot.
Working out can become more interesting and easier to push through if you can binge while you move. The greatest thing my gym ever did was put in a cinema room. I can grab one of the stationary bikes and completely ignore my hatred of physical activity while getting engrossed in the drama of a fantasy series or, even better, an action series. If Tom Cruise can hang on to a moving plane, I can pedal another mile.
Finally, unless you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you may not realize what a nightmare it was to get sucked into a show only to have to wait an entire week or, God forbid, an entire summer for the resolution. Who shot J.R.?!Anyone? There is satisfaction in not having to remind yourself of the ongoing complicated arc of a series because you need to wait in between the holidays to see the next segment.
This doesn’t mean you should give all your free time away to a television show. Binging can be relaxing, community-bonding, and even therapeutic, but now that quarantine is over, so can taking a walk outside, meeting with friends, or hitting the gym (only if there’s a cinema room of course). Just allow yourself the occasional binge session to decompress and check out. Think of it as charging your personal battery.
Follow this checklist for tips and suggestions to ensure you get the most out of your binging sessions.
- Consider movement while you watch. Get some of those squats and planks in while you binge or hop on the treadmill. Getting your blood flowing while simultaneously “checking out” is just a win/win for your health.
- Have your snacks already made/planned out. Everybody needs that day where they can chow down on a pizza or take out Chinese food but having healthier options at the ready can prevent you from gaining weight and cholesterol. Binging is meant to be therapeutic. Don’t destroy the benefits by binging on only junk food.
- Keep those fluids close by. Enjoy that beer or soda, for sure. But like the junk food, be sure that you have some healthy options at hand (water, green tea, herbal tea) to hydrate the body.
- Consider setting a time for a break from your break. Stop at the end of each episode, for example, to move around, stretch, take a bathroom break, or get another glass of water. If you are watching a show that is intense or deeply emotional in its subject matter, you may even want to switch to a short, light-hearted episode of a different show. The benefit of binging is to get out of your own stressed-out head space. If you delve too deeply into a story that is troubling, this can counteract that benefit.
- Consider your long-term comfort. Do you need an extra pillow for your back or neck? Can you stretch out comfortably while you watch? No sense in escaping if you feel groggy ad sore afterward.
- Disconnect from technology (other than the tv, of course). Binging’s benefit is that it distracts your mind from daily stress and obligations. So take full advantage. Get off social media, put your phone on silent, and be in this moment. Your work, friends, and even internet influencers will all be there when you get back.
- Lastly, separate yourself from the TV for the last hour to half hour before you go to bed. Your body is going to need a little movement and stimulation outside of the television screen. Conversely, your brain will need a break from the stimulation of that screen to actually wind down. So hop on up, put away your blankets and pillows, clear the coffee table of your food and beverages (you’ll be glad it’s all cleaned up when you get up in the morning), and even out your mind and body with a little yoga stretching, face washing, and tooth brushing. You’ll feel a new sense of relaxation and relief. And that is what this was all about in the first place.