What Neuroscience Says About Binge-Watching

Binge Watching

Seventy-three percent of Netflix viewers report feeling happy while they’re binge-watching. However, those marathon sessions could pose risks to your mental and physical health.

A growing body of research raises concerns about what binge-watching does to your brain.

Some studies suggest that watching back-to-back episodes can contribute to depression and anxiety and impair language and memory skills.

At first, you feel pleasure as your brain produces more dopamine. Then, you may feel let down when you finish your last season of Buffy. Meanwhile, that passive activity can decrease oxygen levels and make it harder for your brain to focus.

Does this mean you have to choose between your brain and Stranger Things? Before you cancel your streaming subscriptions, find out how to make binge-watching healthier.

Binge Watching and Mental Health:

Binge-watching is probably here to stay. Sixty-one percent of Netflix viewers also say that they regularly watch up to 6 episodes of a show in one sitting.

Adopting these habits can make it easier on your brain:

  1. Limit your consumption. You’re less likely to overdo it if you plan. Decide how many hours of TV you’ll watch before you pick up the remote. Alternatively, you could focus on how many episodes you’ll sit through.
  2. Be selective. Setting limits is easier if you’re fussy about the content. Try to pick programs that are meaningful and enriching. Pause and ask yourself if a series is worth the time it takes to finish it.
  3. Join others. Binge-watching can be isolating. Invite family and friends to join you. If you’re home alone, browse for free apps like Watch2gether.
  4. Talk about it. You can also make TV more interactive and less passive by discussing what you watch. Share comments and questions with your family or participate in online forums.
  5. Manage stress. Do you use binge-watching to distract yourself from uncomfortable feelings and events? That can be okay occasionally, but it helps to have other strategies too. Engage in relaxation practices. Consider counseling if you’re struggling.

Binge Watching and Physical Health:

Your body and mind are closely connected. Make choices that will protect your overall wellbeing from too much sedentary TV time.

Try these tips:

  1. Snack smart. If you eat while watching TV, make it light and nutritious. Smart choices include plain popcorn, fruit, hummus, and cut vegetables.
  2. Work out. Strengthen your body and burn calories with regular exercise. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week.
  3. Take breaks. Even if you work out, you also need to move around periodically if you’re going to be sitting down for a long time. Get up on your feet at least once an hour. Do some whole-body stretches or calisthenics. Take your dog for a walk in between programs.
  4. Check your posture. How you sit makes a difference too. Try to keep your back straight. Put your feet up and bend your knees slightly. Support your head and neck with pillows and other supports if necessary.
  5. Get a hobby. Devote most of your free time to offline activities. In addition to socializing and physical exercise, you might want to play a musical instrument or cook gourmet meals. Develop interests that challenge you and give you a sense of accomplishment.
  6. Stick to your bedtime. Do you catch yourself staying up too late and feeling fatigued the next day because you wanted to watch just one more episode? Make sleep a priority, so your body and mind can heal and function properly.

Moderation is the key to making binge-watching a more positive experience. Set sensible limits on your screen time and balance it out with rewarding offline activities.