Binge-watching television while coping with depression doesn’t mix. I’ve been watching episode after episode of Shameless on Netflix this week and it’s been messing with my ability to cope with my depression. While I can easily excuse watching multiple episodes of a show in a row by calling it creative stimulation or a pleasant distraction from my mental health challenges, it’s a bad idea. Binge-watching TV stops me from moving around and accomplishing things and it works me up emotionally. I usually end up more depressed after binge-watching TV than if I have done something else. When I cope with depression, I try not to binge-watch television.
Binge-Watching TV Complicates Depression
National Public Radio (NPR) recently published an article about research regarding binge-watching and depression. Scientists are having trouble defining what classifies a binge-watch as a binge-watch. While some researchers say that two episodes in a row count as a binge, other researchers specify a certain amount of hours watched. Research merely suggests a connection between binge-watching and depression, with one survey finding that 237 out of 316 people met the definition of binge-watching and those 237 people were more likely than non-binge-watchers to demonstrate depressive behaviors.
So while science doesn’t specifically pinpoint binge-watching TV as a cause of depression, I’m finding that it interrupts my healing progress with my depression. Sitting still for a long period of time is bad for me and being emotionally invested in several hours of a TV show is mentally exhausting and taxing (An Active Lifestyle Improves My Depression). I’ve found a few ways of managing my TV intake and avoiding the temptation to binge-watch shows.
Three Ways to Manage Binge-Watching Television for Depression
Set Time Limits on How much TV You Watch
It is so easy to binge-watch TV shows, especially while coping with depression. Episodes play automatically one after the other, instant gratification is our society’s motto, and a lot of shows come out a full season at a time so we don’t even have to wait for a new episode each week.
It’s crucial to stick to the time limits you set for yourself. Set boundaries before you’re sucked into a show and make sure to follow through with your pre-binge plans. Use a TV timer, set the remote across the room, do whatever you need to do to hold yourself accountable.
Be Selective Regarding Which TV Shows You Watch
I’m finding it more and more important to be conscious of how TV shows affect me emotionally. Naturally, I want to watch an entire Shameless season in two days, but it’s not emotionally beneficial for me. I feel emotions deeply and I get invested in characters’ lives. When they are sad, I feel sad. When there’s a tense situation, I find myself tense when I’m done watching.
It’s important to note your mental state when you’re getting ready to settle in for a show. If you’re feeling stressed about work or life, you should consider watching something that doesn’t fall into that same line of thinking and emotion. Otherwise, your mental state could continue in a cyclical pattern that doesn’t relieve you of your stress but instead intensifies it.
Replace Binge-Watching Television with New Activities
I watch various shows because I need a distraction from my depression and I like the excitement of watching an episode I haven’t seen before. So instead of watching another episode for the distraction of the unknown, I’m trying to replace binge-watches with activities I never do, such as completing puzzles or researching random subjects (Unusual Depression Coping Skills).
I’m finding it difficult to avoid binge-watching shows and I have a rough time doing so, but the most important thing is that I’m trying. The most important thing about coping with depression at any point in the process is that we are trying. And as long as your working to cope, you’re doing just fine.