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Binge-Watching: Side Effects and How to Limit Your Screen Time for Better Health

by Roveen Anyango
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We’ve all been there – sitting on the couch, turning on whatever streaming platform you have and spending hours on ends watching your beloved show, each episode following the other like dominos falling. It can be very easy to lose yourself in this quickly growing pastime, though. Now, binge watching can have benefits – it can build a social community for you around your favorite show and helps relieve stress. However, as with anything else, it does have its side effects.

Here are some of the side effects and how to limit them.

Serious mental Issues

A study done by a University of Texas found that binge watching made the binge-watchers more susceptible to loneliness, depression and a reduced self-control. All these effects then made the TV show, rather than becoming a place to relive stress, actually became a stressor, making the watcher felt guilty and like a failure.

To avoid this feeling, time yourself. Set aside time to watch your favorite TV show and stick to the routine. So, if say you set aside two hours after work to watch your show, stop watching immediately the time ends.

You can allow yourself more time over the weekend and holidays. Also, replace the new free time you have with another productive or relaxing activity such as Yoga or meditation, knitting or painting.

Physical issues

Spending a lot of time folded over the couch can lead to slowed metabolism, putting you at risk of illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, blood clots, more fatigue and insomnia. Furthermore, binge watching encourages poor dietary patterns, such as eating a lot more snacks and fizzy drinks. All these put you at risk of health issues such as obesity.

As with fighting mental problems from binging, set aside time to get off the couch and do something. Maintain an active life outside our binge sessions. For example, you could opt to take a short walk to do light exercises after a binge-watching session.

Alternatively, you can try watching your shows as you stand, or better still, while doing light stretches and workouts. A two in one doesn’t hurt!

Dull emotions

Powering through a show will often provide a sudden adrenaline rush and feel good for a moment, but with time, you become emotionally dull and bored with the show. Suddenly, the characters that you related well to no longer excite you, the plot no longer thrills and thus, you find yourself just running through episodes like a zombie. This can leave you feeling dissatisfied, unfulfilled and unhappy.

To avoid this, after some two or three episodes (for shows of 30 minutes or less), take time to process what you felt. Think back to the characters, their actions, the plot development. For shows of 45 minutes or more per episode, after each episode, take time off to think through what you have just watched.

Binge watching is here to stay, but we don’t have to fall victim to its extremes. Always remain aware of your actions as you watch your beloved shows to avoid becoming numb to the very thing that excites you.

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