What Happens to Us When We Binge-Watch Our Favorite Series

It usually starts innocently enough — we watch a series recommended by a friend or one that is trending on social media. But before we know it, we’ve already fallen into the trap of binge-watching, clicking on “next episode,” credits after credits.

We at Bright Side understand the guilty pleasures of a viewing marathon, but there are pros and cons to binge-watching, and we’re here to share them with you. We also have some bonus tips so you can continue indulging in your favorite series, without the harmful effects.

Pro 1: Binge-watching gives us a natural high.

A clinical psychologist explains that an enjoyable activity, like binge-watching, causes our brains to produce dopamine, which helps create feelings of pleasure and reward.

This also explains why some people can finish an entire season in one go. Our dopamine cravings push us to keep doing what our brain perceives to be a gratifying activity, making it much harder for us to turn off our screens.

Pro 2: It allows us to get in touch with our emotions.

Have you ever felt so invested in a character that you rooted for their success, cried over their heartbreaks, or grieved for their untimely passing?

One expert describes binge-watching as a form of “narrative transportation,” where viewers immerse themselves in a story that feels real. The plot, acting, and music, all contribute to a strong emotional experience, allowing us to engage our own feelings.

Pro 3: It helps relieve stress.

According to one clinical psychologist, our everyday lives are bombarded with constant stress and loads of information. Watching our favorite series allows our brains to take a break from all the pressures and stressors around us.

The temporary escape could also help us feel rejuvenated and more ready when we return to the “real world” to face our personal issues.

Pro 4: It helps improve social and romantic relationships.

Viewing marathons help foster a sense of community, especially among people who follow the same show. This common interest may come in handy when initiating conversation or sharing opinions with other people.

Apart from being a fun and easy way of spending time together, binge-watching with your beau could also be good for your relationship. A study found that shared media time with a partner helps improves relationship quality.

Pro 5: It allows us to take inspiration from our onscreen role models.

Binge-watching can be healthy if the characters we follow serve as role models, and if the show’s content gives us a glimpse of a career or a world we’re interested in.

Remembering how a character behaved or dealt with a certain crisis could also give us creative ideas for solving personal problems.

Con 1: The low that comes after the high.

The empty feeling that comes with every series finale may be a result of what one psychologist describes as “situational depression.” Saying goodbye to a show that we have invested so much time in, can lead to a feeling of loss.

Much like how a sugar high is usually followed by a crash, the sudden decrease in our brain stimulation also makes us prone to feeling sad. Research findings also indicated feelings of guilt after excessive binge-watching, due to neglected duties.

Con 2: It could cause sleep deprivation.

study revealed that people with a higher frequency of binge-watching experienced poorer sleep quality, increased fatigue, and symptoms of insomnia.

Watching crime documentaries, horror scenes, or suspense films is not very conducive for a good night’s sleep either. One expert says that the post-horror euphoria caused by adrenaline-pumping images makes it harder for us to doze off.

Con 3: It can lead to serious health issues.

Sitting for long hours discourages social activities and encourages unhealthy eating habits. Prolonged sedentary behavior also increases our risks for severe medical conditions.

Con 4: It may encourage isolation.

One psychologist warns about the dangers of over-connecting with our TV sets at the cost of real, human interaction.

If you choose to spend time with your video streaming platform rather than with your family and friends, it may be a sign that you’re developing a harmful habit.

Con 5: It could affect viewing satisfaction.

Interestingly, one study discovered that binge-watchers enjoyed a show less compared to viewers who watched the same thing on a daily or weekly schedule.

The researchers concluded that viewing satisfaction may have been affected by flashbacks. Binge-watchers may not have liked seeing the same scenes multiple times in one sitting, while daily and weekly viewers had more spacing between episodes and appreciated the recaps.

Bonus: Here are some tips on how to binge-watch responsibly.

  • Set your own viewing parameters.

Cliffhangers are designed to keep us glued to our screens for as long as possible, but one psychologist suggests committing to only a specific number of hours or episodes per day.

If you really can’t resist finding out what happens next, try marking the first half of the next episode as your stopping point. Questions from the previous one would have probably been answered halfway through, and you’d already have the closure you were looking for.

  • Balance binge-watching with other activities.

Experts recommend balancing hours of sedentary activity with exercise. Walking around the neighborhood before settling on that couch, and standing for 5 minutes after each episode, will help keep our bodies and brains active.

It would also help to find other sources of pleasure — like going out with friends or working on hobbies — to avoid getting addicted to binge-watching.

  • Make sure that your viewing habits do not disrupt your sleep cycle.

The director of Michigan Medicine’s Sleep Disorders Centers emphasizes that the best sleep routine is to avoid exposure to blue light from screens at least 1-2 hours before going to bed.

A neurologist also suggests setting up a bedtime alarm before watching a show, to avoid losing track of time.

  • Watch with other people.

Sharing this fun activity with others will help you avoid social isolation, and will encourage discussions about the series — after all, we’re pretty sure that all those thoughts in your head need an outlet.

What was the maximum number of episodes that you binge-watched in one sitting? What series would you recommend for a viewing marathon?

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