Even though the pastime is at an all time high due to COVID restrictions, many of us struggle with binge-watching guilt. It is common to feel like we should be doing something more “productive” with our spare time, like learning a language, cleaning the oven or writing a novel. But what if it turned out binge watching—indulged in moderation— is actually a productive activity with a whole host of surprising benefits? 

Stress-relief

Any activity that is engrossing enough to allow us to temporarily forget about our personal problems and the current state of the world can be a stress reliever. This describes our favorite bingeable shows to a T because they whisk us away to different times and places and immerse us in gripping stories that are usually very different from our own. Historical dramas such as The Crown, Vikings and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are particularly effective for this kind of “take a break from your troubles stress” reduction. When there are so many things you can’t do because of COVID restrictions, a few hours trip via a binge watch is a suitable vacation alternative.

Building relationship skills 

Because we are always learning, watching highly-relational shows—such as Virgin River or Sweet Magnolias—can help us learn new social skills that can help us build better relationships in our real lives. Characters in most bingeable dramas are constantly navigating sticky situations and figuring out ways to manage their emotions, ambitions and relationships with others and we get a ringside seat for their struggles and triumphs. The right show can demonstrate active listening, respectful dating, how to apologize, engaged parenting and lots of other positive coping skills. And even shows with anti-heroes—like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos—can serve as cautionary tales of what not to do and how to stay out of trouble.

Connecting you with loved ones 

Research shows that the more media you share with loved ones, the closer you are likely to feel. Couples report that watching shows together feels like developing mutual friendships which helps strengthen the relationship, especially if the pair don’t share a circle of friends in their actual life. This phenomenon is particularly powerful right now when many of us are not able to be in close proximity with loved ones. Close connections with fictional characters can also help relieve some of the loneliness many of us are feeling during these socially isolating times. Time spent watching together also bonds us with others and if cuddling is involved can boost levels of the feel good hormone oxytocin. Bring on the binge bonding!

Giving you something other than bad news to talk about

Experts strongly recommend taking breaks from the nearly constant stream of concerning news and the “doom scrolling hole” that many of us fall into several times of day on our phones. What better to take your mind off things arguing with the cast of Queer Eye for their fashion choices, trying to figure out what Survior character you hate the most or what you would do if you were Tony Soprano? So take a break from doom scrolling for some binge talking and enjoy some light, fresh topics.

Helping you express emotions

Getting to the end of a series that you have connected with and enjoyed can be truly sad. You might even cry and that is good. When you get something in your eye your body manufacturer tears to clear away the irritant, likewise when you have strong emotions releasing tears may help your body process stress hormones and detoxify your body. Expressing emotions is a healthy way to feel better during stressful times and research shows that crying facilitates coping and recovery skills. Tears may also be a way to help you regulate intense emotions and get to a more balanced place (where you can calmly look for a new show).

Getting you interested in new things

Have you taken up chess after watching “The Queen’s Gambit”? Started learning French after binge watching Emily in Paris? Or maybe you have made the most amazing cake after being inspired by The Great British Baking Show? Our favorite shows introduce us to new hobbies and ways of life that can expand our own. And learning new things fosters a positive and flexible mindset. We’ll get started on that new hobby just as soon as we finish that last episode

So fire up your favorite platform and stop feeling guilty, though maybe add some push-ups, squats or a mini dance party between episodes to keep the blood flowing.

What’s your favorite bingeable show right now?