Did you know? TV has potential for enhanced therapy | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis

We have long heard about the evils of the idiot box and the ill-effects of being a couch potato, but what if spending an entire weekend parked on the couch and binge-watching shows worked as therapy? It might sound like an oxymoron, but several mental health professionals recommend the passive activity as effective therapy in certain situations. It’s all about modifying and tweaking your media consumption habits, they say, to get the best out of entertainment.

The good and the bad

Although there hasn’t been concrete research or experiments on watching television as a tool of therapy, we’ve certainly heard that binge-watching television leads to depression or too much of it can isolate you from rest of the world, says Dr Shefali Batra, psychiatrist and cognitive therapist. “I would like to blend the neurological with the psychological aspect,” says Dr Batra. In fact, television can actually work to boost one’s memory. “When you watch television, your frontal lobe gets activated and alert because you’re keeping track of different events and episodes. This activity improves the executive functions of your brain, which include memory, planning, organisation, and understanding different situations,” explains Dr Batra.

Some shows can work as mood enhancers and give an insight into thoughts and problems. “It should not be taken as an absolute way out but people who feel low, retirement blues, relationship problems, or an identity crisis can use television in association with therapy,” says Navya Dev, counselling psychologist at Amrapali Hospital in Noida. “It is definitely worth trying,” concurs Amit Joshi, consulting psychologist, who says certain shows can help in teaching children healthy behavioural patterns.

Personalise your TV therapy

It is most effective when the subject of the show aligns with one’s likes and interests. “When someone watches a sport they really love and enjoy, it’s a high release of dopamine, which enhances wellness,” says Dr Batra.

Dr Gaurav Kulkarni, a consultant psychiatrist in Mumbai, is of the opinion that television can be effective in select situations. “Certain shows that are full of energy, comedy or laughter can work well in alleviating negativity for some people. They get a stimulus to generate laughter and express positive emotions which are otherwise missing.” Sitcoms do work as a relaxant to a certain extent, agrees Dr Joshi. “Though not therapeutic in the strict sense, sitcoms may help people with depression. Due to their condition, they may not be in the position to appreciate actual humour but situational comedies may help them feel better.”

For patients who suffer from phobias, panic and fear, experts recommend shows with adventure and daring stunts. “Watching such shows can boost their strength and help them feel empowered.

Several mental health professionals are in favour of informative shows about wildlife, science and technology; and channels such as National Geographic and Discovery. “Youngsters with low self esteem can benefit by gaining general knowledge through these shows,” says Dr Kulkarni.

A watch-list prescription

Dr Rizwana Nulwala, board member and consultant counsellor of Urja Trust in Mumbai calls it ‘media therapy’. She recommends Udta Punjab for information on the characteristics of substance abuse, and Dear Zindagi to understand what is therapy and clearing the stigma attached with seeking help. To understand emotional abuse, and dealing with it, Dr Nulwala recommends Udaan. Another movie on understanding parental roles is Taare Zameen Par, which also helps in understanding dyslexia. Dhoop Chhaon, a Pakistani series, is often recommended by Dev, especially to people dealing with relationship conflicts, difficulty coping, low feelings and identity crisis. “It is the tale of a woman’s endurance, quiet strength, adaptability and determination to sail through life’s hardships without compromising on her intrinsic qualities,” says Dev. For light-hearted recommendations, Dev turns to classics such as Friends and The Golden Girls.

Originally published at www.dnaindia.com on February 1, 2017.

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Navya Dev

Navya Dev

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A psychologist by profession, a thinker, a believer, loves to explore oneself and people around.