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What impact does binge-watching have on your brain?

Learn about how binge-watching regularly impacts your brain and whether or not it is suited for your mental health! 

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Image: Know Your Meme

In this fast-paced world, we barely get any time for ourselves; keeping up with work, house chores, and parental responsibilities. The few hours of peace we do get in the day, we decide to watch that new TV series everyone has been talking about lately. Skip to midnight and you’ve already binged half of it!

Now, you’re even more tempted to stay up. After all, you just want to watch “one more” episode. Even if that means sacrificing on some important shut-eye. It happens to the best of us, right? Well, you don’t have yourself to blame. Streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu are addictive as hell.

For a simple monthly fee, you get to explore a huge list of movies/TV shows from around the world. And, it’s only wise you take advantage of that access. However, does binge-watching have an impact on your brain? That’s what I’ll be discussing in this article today.

The Negative Side of Binge-Watching

Let’s start by talking about the negative effects binge-watching has on your brain. Bear in mind these are just observations from people who do stream a lot, so they may or may not be true for you!

1. May Increase Anxiety and Depression

Since binge-watching is still a relatively new occurrence, there aren’t a lot of studies on how it impacts mental health. However, some people have observed a high correlation between binge-watching and anxiety and depression. Users who binge a lot may face insomnia, mood disturbances, and increased fatigue, negatively impacting mental health.

2. Results in Poor Sleeping Patterns

A study from NCBI reveals that people who binge-watch suffer from poor quality sleep and insomnia. Typically, when you binge a TV show, it may trigger “pre-sleep arousal”, which is caused by the bright light from screens. This results in the disruption of your circadian rhythm, along with experiencing increased heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline.

3. Binge-Watchers Tend to be Lonely

Since you get absorbed into the world of the TV show, binge-watching makes having company less desirable or unnecessary for some. It’s highly unlikely that while watching TV, you’ll be able to simultaneously have a stimulating discussion. Some studies claim that binge-watching is a symptom of loneliness, while others claim it helps bond with others.

4. You May Feel Let Down When a Show Ends

For some people, binging a TV show helps deal with stress. However, when it reaches the inevitable end, there may be a slight letdown. Some streamers report to missing TV characters when they’re done and the general dull reality of life. While the explosion of quality TV shows has been amazing, moderation is the key to keeping yourself sane and healthy mentally!

The Positive Side of Binge-Watching

Where some people may experience negative emotions from binge-watching, others may have a more positive outlook towards it. Below I’ll be discussing the factors for this change of scenery:

1. May Help with Stress Management

People who regularly engage in binge-watching claim that it helps alleviate stress from the daily tensions and exhaustion of life. By streaming on platforms like American Netflix, the common man gains the ability to unwind and relax. As a result, some claim it to be a perfect tool for stress management, allowing them to tune out bothersome things in life when required!

2. Activates Multiple Brain Circuits

The action, suspense, drama, and real-life depiction of good TV shows activate those areas of your brain involved in emotion, arousal, vision, hearing, feeling, and aggression. As a result, those who have trouble focusing on something may find binge-watching to be a great activity for constantly stimulating the hypothalamus, septum, sensory-motor areas, and visual cortex.

3. Allows People to Bond Easily

Contrary to popular belief, binge-watching does not lead to anti-social ness. Some people claim that it has actually helped them fostering new relationships. Since you watch multiple shows, you can easily use your knowledge as a conversation starter and then connect over an in-depth discussion. It’s a fun experience when two people who love the same TV show start talking!

4. Enhances Your Knowledge

For many people, binge-watching presents the rare ability to enhance their knowledge on multiple topics. Oftentimes, streamers indulged in TV shows search Google to explain different terms and scenarios. This allows them to absorb vital information by simply watching something. Some users even claimed to have improved their vocabulary through binge-watching.

With Great Fun Comes Great Responsibility!

Just like all good things in life, moderation is the key. The difference between a positive and negative binge-watching experience is to be a little responsible!

1. Binge Lengthy Shows on the Weekend

Similar to how you plan your work, it is vital that users create a “binge-watching” routine. For TV series with only 1-2 seasons, you can stream during the weekdays. However, if you plan on binging a 5 to 10 season-long TV series like “Breaking Bad” or “The Walking Dead”, it would be better to shift the watch-craze to the weekend. This way, you can stick to a proper routine for lengthy shows.

2. Watch Three to Four Episodes in One Go

For working days, make it a habit to only watch three to four episodes at max. This is considering you are watching a TV show with an hour or 45-minutes long episodes. Doing this will allow you to focus on various tasks while planning your binging routine for the night. Therefore, you will be able to sleep better, as you will be more relaxed!

3. Settle the Curiosity for Cliff Hangers

Oftentimes, what makes you hit that “next episode” button is because you reached a point in the TV show, which can best be described as a cliffhanger. Instead of being intrigued to watch another 1-hour episode, opt for viewing only about 20 minutes of it. This helps settle the curiosity of what happens next while ensuring you don’t get too deep into the plot to ruin things!

4. Take Care of Your Physical Health

Diving into the couch or bed and not moving for 10 hours straight is definitely not preferred. Binge-watchers can live a healthy lifestyle by keeping themselves active. If you are watching a lengthy TV show, do stretches in between episodes. Pause the show for small breaks. Wall around. Drink some water. Then get back to your TV show!

Wrapping Things Up

One thing’s for sure that binge-watching does have both: positive and negative impacts on your brain and mental health. If you want things to remain towards the positive side, there will be some moderation required from your end. Just remember that you can be healthy and manage everything in life even with the addictive habit of binge-watching!

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