The secret to healthy binge watching

Downing an entire season in one go has been the default way to watch TV for some time now.  About 70% of Americans admit to being certified binge watchers. Surprisingly, occasional binge-watching has been shown to yield some positive results. UC Santa Barbara communication professor Robin Nabi’s media research with breast cancer survivors confirmed television to be an effective method of quieting major stressors.

A recent study published in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, showed how binge-watching dramas can boost emotional intelligence, particularly empathy.

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Unfortunately, as it turns out, you can have too much of a good thing. Healthline reports that habitually consuming more than three and a half hours of television at a time can lead to cognitive decline in both language and memory. Additionally, researchers from the University of Liverpool discovered that people that ate while distracted by TV ate 25% more than normal. A Japanese Collaborative Cohort Study found that excessive TV consumption could even lead to premature death.

Wanna live to binge season three of 13 Reasons Why? Here’s how you can, according to a psychologist.


Binge watching your favorite show isn’t a problem in and of itself. It has more to do with the kind of unhealthy behavior being a committed couch potato tends to promote and the healthy habits it tends to mute. Psychologist Dr. Scott Bea identifies the sweet comfort of staring at a screen for three hours to be a chemical one. “It’s hard to pull yourself away- so have a plan before you start,” says Bea.

He suggests having a number of episodes in mind before engaging. This makes it easier to hold yourself accountable. Establishing a limit also keeps us from slipping into that mindless state that extreme Netflix trips seem to induce. If we know we’re only allowing ourselves three episodes, for instance, we’re more likely to remain focused and alert.

To avoid the anti-social behavior associated with regular binge-watching, Dr. Bea says we should make a point to never binge alone. If you’re gonna watch all eight episodes of Russian Doll at once, do it with a buddy or a partner. It forces you to interact and communicate, effectively breaking up the LCD spell.  In this context, the  show isn’t just a mindless distraction it’s also a “topic of connection and conversation.”

To that point: Attempt to avoid watching TV simply to detract yourself as much as possible. Try to make it a mindful experience. Allow yourself to be compelled by the characters and plot lines not just enamored by the flashy colors on the screen.  If you feel like taking your mind off of stuff, survey your options. Perhaps there’s something slightly more intellectually fulfilling that you could be doing.

This next one is a little heretical, but it’s also pretty resourceful.

Everyone knows a good binge session loves horrible food, but what if we supplanted the Pringles curl with light dumbbell curls?  Or maybe try speeding through your favorite show while on the treadmill at your local gym. At the very least Dr. Bea suggests we replace unhealthy snacks with fruits or other low-calorie bites. Who says you can’t be on a healthy diet while watching the Santa Clarita Diet?

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