Beware the Binge-Watching Blues

Americans can’t stop talking about TV shows they’re streaming on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and other services; some might say we are truly in the golden age of television. But with convenience and popularity of TV streaming, binge-watching has emerged as a bad habit that affects productivity, sleep, and exercise. Many of us can finish an entire season in a week or—even a single night, thinking, well, “just one more.” Netflix says that 61% of 1,500 users they studied binge-watch regularly, watching two to six single show episodes every week.

So why worry about a binge-watching epidemic? Many of us sit on the couch late at night, snacking and losing sleep to indulge in one more episode. Hours spent in front of the screen, instead of getting the sleep we need, can leave us tired and groggy upon waking. Without the proper rest and time spent outdoors, our productivity and overall health suffers.

Besides the physical effects of chronic binge-watching, the drama of a TV series, especially serial shows, play on our emotions. Believe it or not, binge watching involves a very large emotional investment. Depending on whether your binge session ends on a positive or negative note could affect your mood for the day. On the one hand, the excitement may transition to real events, making the real world more intense temporarily. On the other, sitting for long periods of time and immersing yourself in the tragedy of your favorite TV heroes and heroines could leave you sluggish and down in the dumps.

6 Tips to Break the Habit

  1. Cure the cliffhanger yearning by watching the first 20 minutes of the next episode, but then turn off the TV until the next day.
  2. End your TV session with lighter comedy to get you in a more “up” mood.
  3. Invite friends over for a marathon party. By making it an occasion, you will hold off going into long binges by yourself.
  4. Use the convenience of streaming to your advantage: Watch an episode on your smartphone or tablet while you’re on a stationary bike or elliptical machine during your gym session.
  5. Remember that binge watching is much like any other addiction in that it makes us forget our own worries for a while. Try watching your favorite show as a reward rather than an escape.
  6. For those of us who work from home, binge-watching is an even easier habit to pick up. Work in a room without any TV or go to a cafe to work. Don’t turn on the TV until you feel you’ve accomplished something.

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