Binge-watching television shows has become the new norm. “Binging” is usually defined as watching at least two or three episodes of a show in one sitting. Television addiction has become such normal behavior that it is not uncommon to hear people brag about how many episodes of a show they watched in one night. Many people engage in this behavior to catch up on and chat with friends and family about the big events in popular shows. Occasionally engaging in binge-watching is not necessarily a bad thing. A person may feel exhausted the next day from saying “one more episode” a few too many times, but when it becomes the go-to method of de-stressing and relaxing, it can become a more hazardous habit.
People often binge-watch when they experience heightened levels of stress or want to avoid some responsibilities. Television shows provide many with an escape from the pressures of everyday life. The build-up in tension and drama on our favorite shows creates a level of anticipation that leaves us wanting more. That build-up often releases little bursts of dopamine in the brain, which fuels our need to keep watching. It is often an experience many have before an important event happens, which is why we get so excited over the anticipation of a new episode or a season finale. Once the show or movie has concluded, dopamine levels drop again, and for some, they may dip below normal levels, causing them to feel sadness or irritability. Even though this may not be as intense as what is experienced with drug use, it is enough to drive some back to their Netflix queue and start a new episode to improve their mood.
Binge-watching can be fun, but it can also be an unhealthy activity. Binge-watching usually involves accumulating calories by binging on food and decreasing physical exercise. It also typically reduces mental stimulation and social interactions, which can make some people become more reclusive. Instead of communicating with others, it is often easier to get lost in a movie or television show. Being glued to the screen also means there is less time spent on taking care of responsibilities. Chores are neglected, personal hygiene may suffer, and relationships can deteriorate. It can be incredibly easy and convenient to get lost in the screen, but it can come with negative outcomes.
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Breaking Television Addiction
In most cases, television addiction and other addictive behaviors can be disrupted when a person becomes more aware of their bad habits. Finding ways to moderate use and have a healthy relationship with technology is the best way to start breaking these habits. For most people, it is virtually impossible to remove television completely from their lives, but there are ways to make sure it does not impede responsibilities. Here are some ways to break up the habit of binge-watching and spend less time in front of the screen:
- Set alarms: Allow yourself a set amount of time to watch movies or TV shows. This can help control the “just one more episode” urge many people experience. This ensures you are able to enjoy your favorite shows and still balance other responsibilities and obligations.
- Get outside: Rather than starting another episode right away, take some time in between shows to go for a walk or chat with a friend. This allows you to find other ways to decompress without relying solely on television to get you through stressful periods of time.
- Create incentives: You can incentivize television by earning your episodes. Instead of just pressing play and letting the next episode start on its own, give yourself responsibilities to address in order to “earn” the next episode. This can be as simple as folding laundry, washing the dishes, or calling someone you have not spoken to in a while. This allows you to still enjoy your favorite shows and movies while still being productive. This will make you feel better about yourself and help you establish moderation in your viewing habits.