Life Hacks, Health Care, Movies + TV, Science, Health, Now + Beyond

Don’t worry – binge-watching Netflix shows is actually good for you

Go ahead, watch another episode. It can actually make you a better person.

So, you like watching movies, and spending hours with your eyes glued to hours of Parks and Recreation. What if I told you that all of your late night, ice-cream and chill, on the couch, binge-watching sessions could be beneficial?

Yup, that’s right. According to neuroscience and psychology, watching hours of T.V. and movies can be good for you.

If you’re reading this and wondering how in the world could procrastinating and escaping to a far-away dimensional paradise could be great, then hear me out.

https://giphy.com/gifs/shameless-season-2-episode-1-3ohhwqeBbUEDQLagog
Girl from T.V. Show Shameless asking everyone if they would like to watch some television Via Giphy

I, like you, good folks, love to stream long-winded amounts of television, which, at this point, I’m not at all abashed, to admit, and you should not either. There are reasons why binge-watching also referred to as “modern escapism without any restraint” is very good in the long-term run. But, let’s talk about it on a scientific and psychological level.

1. Watching for long hours can act as a stress-reliever

Debi Mazar Television GIF by YoungerTV
Image Description: Woman looks into the camera whilst talking, the caption says “I’m into binge-watching” Via giphy.com

Destressing has been reported by subjects in recent studies to be the number one cause for binge-watching television, according to Dr. John Mayer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist.

Binge-watching has the unique capability to become a constant de-stressor in the midst of a world filled with work and responsibilities, with the notion of escapism.

Binge-watching within limitations and grounds is highly valued for destressing. Click To Tweet

A 2014 study demonstrated that individuals use television as a means to unwind or get away from the struggles and problems faced in life. There were; however, elements of cognitive dissonance which were inhibited by the individuals watching television. As, although, binge-watching made them more stress-free and relaxed, there were sentiments of guilt associated with the action itself.

2. Escaping reality can induce feelings of positivity

https://giphy.com/gifs/abcnetwork-d3LEhxhBBF1c7ZwA
Image Description: A woman sits down on the couch while eating popcorn and is watching television via Giphy.com

In a research paper by Bernd Henning and Peter Vorderer, Kubrey states that watching television is an activity likely to be chosen by people wishing to escape from negative feelings and from the demands of reality. Elevation of feelings of positivity is sufficiently on the surface, with binge-watching. The research conducted included German students being observed concerning around the amount of television they were viewing of the need for cognition. It was discovered, that the longer viewers’ need for cognition is, the less pleasant the students’ felt, when they had nothing to do, but think.

From the study: “In its core, escapism means that most people have, due to unsatisfying life circumstances, again and again, cause to ‘leave’ the reality in which they live in a cognitive and emotional way.”

In another study, by Harris interactive, Netflix discovered in December of 2014, 61 percent of 1,500 television watchers claimed to binge-watch Netflix regularly. Three-quarters of the people reported having described feelings of positivity about their current actions.

It was discovered, that the longer viewers’ need for cognition is, the less pleasant the students’ felt, when they had nothing to do, but think. Click To Tweet

3. Binge-watching can be a pleasurable activity

https://giphy.com/gifs/ifc-fred-armisen-portlandia-3oz8xzKhSWeQYCZKCs
Image Description: A couple is sitting in their pajamas and is excited to be watching more television shows and movies via Giphy.com

As a task is about to be finished, our brains release a chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which serves to be the pleasure center for the brain. So naturally, our brains would want to watch an ample amount more episodes after finishing the seventh Game of Thrones season, am I right? If we watch television at night, bright lights emitting from the screen of the television, increase our serotonin level. Serotonin regulates the anxiety, happiness, and mood in our brain, by the way.

Thus, the binge-watching sessions ensue, you shouldn’t feel bad about them. Just be smart about when to stop and continue.

Cultural Anthropologist Grant McCracken went into the houses of a surplus of respondents to discover that 76 percent reported that bingeing was a welcome gateway into their hectic lives. Eight out of ten believed that binge-watching a T.V. show was better than watching singular episodes.

4. We feel empathy for the characters on the screen

empathy GIF
Image description: A woman hugs a child with the caption “Let me hug you” via Giphy.com

With the “Golden Age of Television” on the rise and exposure to more intelligent content, binge-watching can surely become an addiction on accounts involving emotions.

Let’s talk more neuroscience, here.

Cognitive empathy observes how people can adopt the psychological characteristic traits of others’ with the inclusion of fictional characters. This phenomenon in psychology could potentially explain how we become engrossed in stories which appear to be similar, yet so different from our own on television. This could be due to our ability to recognize the feelings in others and see ourselves in characters on television using projection 

Because there are better story-lines and even smarter plots on the screen, it is so easy to get sucked into the world of binge-watching nowadays. Click To Tweet

I finally have a reason to explain to anyone who dares to interrupt me while watching A Series of Unfortunate Events. And if anyone scratches their head in pure, utter confusion, I’ll tell them it’s because of science and refer them to this article. Problem solved.

All in all, it is seen binge-watching actually has benefits primarily from a scientific standpoint. So now, kick back, relax and go finish that season you’ve been putting off because you were too stressed.