The latest series just came out, everyone has already seen it, and you can’t go anywhere without hearing about how awesome it is. Sometimes it feels like you just can’t help it – you know you’re about to binge on Netflix once again. But at the same time, you know that you’ll feel guilty for spending the whole weekend on your couch instead of out in the world, ya know, doing stuff.
So what do you do? Well, if you choose Netflix this weekend, at least make your binge more productive by using it to strengthen your emotion regulation skills. With stronger emotion regulation skills, you can better cope with stress, increase your satisfaction with life, and become more resilient.
So how do you use Netflix to strengthen your emotion regulation skills? By using these four simple strategies:
The broaden-and-build theory suggests that experiencing positive emotions builds our psychological, intellectual, and social resources, allowing us to benefit more from our experiences. When you put yourself in a good mood by watching positive or fun videos, you may make it easier to cope with subsequent stress. Just be sure to mentally hang onto those positive emotions so that you take your good mood with you when you leave the couch.
We learn how to be empathetic by looking at the world through other people’s eyes and feeling the emotions that they feel. By watching videos that recount the experiences of people who are different than us, we may be able to develop our ability to empathize with others. It doesn’t always feel good to empathize because we feel the others’ pain, but empathy is key to building strong personal relationships and feeling more connected to others.
In graduate school, my research team often asked study participants to watch emotional scenes from movies. We’d then give them instructions on how to reappraise the situation – for example by giving the characters advice for how to feel better, think about what could be learned from the experience, or imagine possible positive outcomes. By reappraising the situation as more positive, people were able to reduce their negative emotions. You too can use this strategy to practice positive reappraisal. With practice, you may be able to more easily use this strategy in real life.
Watching movies is a relatively safe space for experiencing negative emotions. So instead of pushing negative emotions away, use this opportunity to acknowledge your emotions, experience them fully, and practice accepting them. By practicing mindful acceptance of negative emotions, you may be able to build this skill and use it elsewhere in your life.
I’m not suggesting that a Netflix binge is a healthier choice than going out with friends or getting some exercise, but if you’re going to do it anyway, why not try some of these strategies to build your emotion regulation skills while you binge.