By Anagha Rao
Imagine coming home after a long day and turning on an episode of your favorite TV show. You check the time a bit later, and you realize that 3 hours have flown by. You keep telling yourself that you’ll watch just one more episode and go to sleep afterwards, but this is almost never the case. Or, you might rationalize by saying something like “I got an A on that test, I deserve to treat myself.” This blog post explores what goes on in the brain when we binge-watch TV shows.
When people binge-watch TV, our brains produce dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter in the brain most known for making us joyful. This molecule activates the brain’s pleasure center, and we feel cheerful as we watch the TV show. When the show ends, our brain stops producing dopamine, causing us to feel gloomier. However, when we watch another episode or show, our mind goes into a more blissful state once more. Another reason why binge watching is a popular pastime is due to the way the brain encodes memories. When our brain watches TV shows, it encodes the characters’ events similar to how it encodes memories, and it activates the same part of the brain that is activated when we watch a live event. This is why we genuinely become interested in the lives of TV show characters, despite knowing that they are fictional. When we watch a TV show, we form a strong bond with the characters, which can cause us to binge-watch a show. Another reason people tend to binge-watch shows is that they identify with a particular character. For example, if a person was adopted, and the show they watched featured an adopted character, they will be more likely to watch that show and relate the character to themselves.
Contrary to popular belief, binge-watching does have numerous mental health benefits for everyone. First, binge-watching can be a stress-reliever. Psychologically, people watch a show as a form of escaping from the real world, similar to readers using books to enter new worlds away from reality. Binge-watching can make a show more fulfilling, and watching TV shows is an excellent way to make social connections with people who watch the same show. Other times, people can binge-watch when they are angry or depressed, which is a healthier outlet compared to using harmful drugs or alcohol.
However, there are numerous negative effects of this habit. First, a sedentary lifestyle can increase chances of various adverse effects on our health, including heart disease, obesity, and anxiety. Binge-watching is directly related to sleep, and studies have shown that people who binge-watch are less likely to sleep 8-10 hours each day, which is the average recommended amount of sleep for humans. Excessive screen time can cause headaches and eyestrain, and raises the risk of mental health disorders. It can also lead to unhealthy snacking habits and a lack of interest in anything unrelated to that TV show.
Although binge-watching can be an amazing stress reliever, it is essential to know when it affects your everyday life and prevents you from fulfilling your responsibilities. Making sure to sleep 8-10 hours, eat on time, and take a break every 60 minutes or so is the best way to ensure that you can watch TV shows while still leading a positive lifestyle.
What are some positive effects of binge watching?
Binge-watching can be an enormous stress-reliever. Many people watch a show to escape from responsibilities of the real world, and binge-watching can serve a temporary escape from stress and external pressures. Binge-watching can make a show more fulfilling, and watching TV shows can be an excellent way to make social connections with people who watch the same show. Sometimes, people binge-watch when they are angry or sad, and this is a far better outlet compared to drugs or alcohol.
What are some tips to binge-watch without becoming addicted?
Making sure to get enough sleep, eating on time, and taking a break every 60 minutes or so is the best way to ensure that you can watch TV shows without affecting your life negatively.