With so much new and readily available content to choose from, why do we feel drawn to rewatching shows or reread beloved books dozens of times? What causes a yearning for the familiar in times of increased stress, anxiety and depression? Can rewatching old favorites help you heal?
Many have asked similar questions, wondering if the desire to rewatch shows over and over signifies a mental illness or an anxious habit. We just want to know if it’s weird that we feel the pull to restart The Office just as soon as we watch that final episode. Is this normal?
So, why do I keep watching the same show over and over?
Films and shows are wonderful coping tools that can affect our opinions and how we perceive the world, transform and justify our emotions and ultimately, serve as reliable friends who are there through thick and thin. It makes sense that we crave their comfort and familiarity, especially during difficult times.
When we feel anxious about the future, depressed about the past or bogged down with the overwhelming stress of the present, our brains seek relief from carrying those burdens. One of the most frequently used escape methods from the real world involves rewatching or rereading our favorite TV shows, films and books. Specifically, rewatching our favorite childhood films has proven to help us feel calmer, relaxed, and even grounded in times of heightened anxiety or depression.
rewatching films and TV shows put our minds at ease and increase our overall happiness as they temporarily transport us to a time when we had fewer responsibilities, obligations and worries. If you have deep and meaningful memories associated with specific titles, you may also find yourself in a state of nostalgia. Interestingly, once activated, nostalgia creates a reassuring, warming sensation, much like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket during the winter, presenting our minds with the primordial safety and security we crave.
Rewatching Shows: Comfort Food for Your Mind
Many psychologists speculate that rewatching beloved films and TV shows, as well as rereading books, can offer health incentives that exceed those correlated with new content. The “social surrogacy hypothesis,” coined by Shira Gabriel, Ph.D., suggests that humans, in continual need of positive social relationships, have turned to narrative films, TV shows and books to serve as one-way parasocial relationships. Fictional characters can cheer people up and lift their self-esteem. These characters not only mimic the benefits of spending time with real-world friends and loved ones, but our brains aren’t able to differentiate between the two situations, causing us to receive the same emotional gain from either experience.
During the lockdown, for example, many people clung to their favorite shows, films and books. The fear and ambiguity of what the future held once COVID-19 hit caused an undeniable overload of stress and anxiety. Our overstimulated and overworked brains crave predictability. Especially when we feel like we have no control over the future or our emotions. Rewatching or rereading provides the same level of entertainment but skip additional cognitive burdens. We don’t have to think, make any decisions, remember plots or new characters. Instead, we can unplug our brains, feel a sense of control because we know exactly what is going to happen, and enjoy our temporary reprieve.
If you have concerns for yourself or a loved one that extend beyond the subject of your latest TV binge, don’t hesitate to contact our team at Promises Behavioral Health about the mental health treatment options we offer. Visit our website for more information or call us today at 888.970.3011 to be connected with our client coordinator!