How to Stop “Just One More Episode” From Ruining Your Life
I wake up feeling tired and groggy. Rubbing my eyes, I grope for my phone and turn it on. I squint my eyes against the harsh glare of the lock screen as it flashes “12:00 PM”.
Muttering to myself about having missed classes again, I hastily brush, splash some water on my face and make my way to the nearby Nescafe to grab “breakfast” — a bar or two of chocolate and a cold coffee.
Back to my room, I open the lid of my laptop and put on my headphones to continue my Anime marathon. When I go to the mess for lunch, I switch to watching on my phone.
A short nap after the satiating meal and I am back at it.
Around 4:00 PM I feel hungry and my eyes burning so I make a quick dash to the mess for a meal of peanut butter sandwiches, “samosas” and a cup of coffee.
It’s 6:30 PM, I decide to skip going to the gym and continue.
Dinner, a lazy hour or two of hanging out with friends, and by 10:00 PM I am back in my room. “I need to and will sleep before 12:00 AM”, I utter an affirmation.
At 12:00 AM, armed with “Just one more episode” and some snacks, I continue. Time starts to fly — 1:00 AM, 1:30 AM, 2:30 AM, … 4:00 AM.
With watery pools of red for eyes and my head spinning, I call it quits and shut the lid.
Slinging a towel over my shoulder and grabbing my bucket, I make my way to the bathroom for my shower. Except for a light or two, the corridor is pitch dark.
I take a look at my face in the mirror — Deep bags under my eyes, a sickly pallor, and exhaustion oozing from it.
It’s 4:30 AM when I fall into an uneasy sleep only to wake up the next afternoon and continue with my vicious routine.
The above is a glimpse into my life in my first year of college when “binge” was the name of the game. I would binge eat and binge-watch which made me feel miserable physically but more importantly mentally.
Why We Love to Binge-Watch
An escape from the daily grind
Most of us live stressful, unsatisfactory, and seemingly “mundane” lives which make us seek an escape.
“We are no longer zoning out as a way to forget about our day, but are tuning in to a different world. Getting immersed in multiple episodes or even multiple seasons of a show over a few weeks is a new kind of escapism.”
It makes us feel “good”
According to a study, 73% of us have positive feelings about binge-watching TV. The culprit is our body’s own natural response to enjoyment.
Dr. Renee Carr, Psy. D, a clinical psychologist explains that binge-watching produces a continuous stream of dopamine in our brains.
“Dopamine gives the body a natural, internal reward of pleasure that signals to the body — This feels good. You should keep doing this!”
Your body does not discriminate against pleasure so you experience a pseudo-addiction to the show because you develop cravings for dopamine.
“So it turns out that it isn’t the show we’re craving; instead, it’s the feeling of pleasure we get from watching episode after episode.”
This causes a drug-like feeling and can lead to addictive behavior.
The Epidemic of Binge-Watching
Thanks to cheap internet and streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu, binge-watching has become rampant.
A recent study found that most Netflix members choose to binge-watch their way through a series. To really put things into perspective,
According to Nielsen, 361,000 people watched all nine episodes of season 2 of ‘Stranger Things,’ on the first day it was released.
It has come to the point where “binge-watching addiction” has become an actual thing.
The concerning aspect of this is that excessive binge-watching has serious effects on both your physical and mental health.
- Goes hand in hand with binge-eating. Lying on your bed with one hand holding the remote and the other in a tub of popcorn. Munchies are integral, aren’t they?
- Eye strain. Remember how turning my eyes into watery pools of red was a part of my daily routine? Excessive screen time causes eye strain which can lead to blurred vision and retinal damage.
- Disrupts your sleep. According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, avid binge-watchers reported poor sleep quality, increased fatigue, and more insomnia symptoms
- Isolation and decreased socialization. Research shows that the majority binge-watch alone and studies have connected this to fewer significant social relationships which lead to depression and other mental health issues.
- Potential weight gain. Binge eating plus a sedentary lifestyle is the perfect recipe for weight gain.
- Anxiety and depression. In a study done by the University of Toledo, binge-watchers reported higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than those who were not binge-watchers.
Kicking Off the Habit
Now that you know why binge-watching is bad, you might want to get rid of it right? — But this one’s a stubborn and sticky one that needs both time and effort to get rid of. As the saying goes,
“It’s not going to be easy but it's going to be worth it”
I want to share a few tips that helped me and hopefully you to kick this habit right off the turf.
Get off the Bed
When you are lying comfortably on the bed with your head propped on a plush pillow and the sheets drawn up to the neck, it’s excruciatingly hard to not watch another episode.
Sleep experts across the world swear by the adage, “The bed is for sleeping and sex only” as our brains tend to associate places with reactions and it’s important to make your brain associate the act of “sleeping” with the bedroom.
Separate your sleeping and watching area by using a couch or a desk to watch. Not only do you reduce the tendency to binge but you also improve your sleep.
Use Apps to Limit Binge-Watching
If you spend a lot of time binge-watching on your laptop or desktop, then there are helpful options to limit your viewing. Here are three such apps,
- Freedom works across Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, and can block all kinds of app types — including streaming video. You set your limits, and it does the rest for $7 a month or $30 a year after a free trial.
- StayFocusd is a simple chrome extension — add video streaming sites to the blocked list and set a daily time limit.
- LeechBlock is a similar tool for both Chrome and Firefox.
Disable Autoplay on Your Streaming Service
Most streaming services automatically play the next episode after the previous ones end.
You ask why? — Because they are freaking “designed” with the intent of wanting you to continue watching.
But you don’t have to relent. Disable the autoplay feature.
When faced with the choice to continue watching or stopping after every single episode, you are much more likely to stop.
Also, the mere act of pressing the play button after every episode makes you more aware of how much you are actually binging.
“Earn” Your Episodes
You can set up a “reward system” where you reward yourself with a few episodes after completing a certain task.
So something like, “I’ll do the laundry and watch 5 episodes”, “I’ll do the dishes and watch 3 episodes”, “I’ll complete this module and 4 episodes” etc.
Apart from making sure you get work done, this system will give you real happiness and a sense of achievement as opposed to the instant gratification you get from plain binging.
Set an Alarm
It’s extremely easy to lose track of time when binge-watching. I would check the time expecting just an hour to have gone by but three or even four would have.
By setting an alarm you at least become aware of the time which might assist in stopping or at least taking a break from the binge.
On a not so serious note, an even better tactic would be — selecting a song you absolutely hate as the alarm tone and setting multiple alarms spaced 15 or 20 minutes. You might quit watching out of frustration at least.
You are with your friends and they are clamoring about how great the latest season of some TV show is. When you chime in that you haven’t watched it, they call it a “must watch” and urge you with their lives to watch it.
You get back home and start. A few episodes in and you don’t enjoy it but you keep going. Why? — Peer pressure duh.
There’s actually a term for this, “Purge watching” where you feel compelled to watch a show just to get it over with.
You get nothing out of purge watching apart from a load of stress.
Watch only what you enjoy. Don’t watch out of compulsion, FOMO, or peer-pressure.
Don’t Binge Alone
A study by Sam Houston State University found the average binge-watch time alone to be 3.47 hours compared to 5 hours when alone. So when you watch with friends or family, the tendency to binge-watch is much lesser.
This is sort of intuitive, isn’t it? — It’s easy to lose track of time, not be aware and keep going when you are watching alone compared to when in a group.
So invite friends or family over to join you the next time you plan a binge session. Even “Netflix and chill”, both the literal and “code” meanings might be great options.
Use a WiFi Timer
Yes, you can plug in your WiFi router into a timer as easily as you would a light bulb into its socket.
When you set a timer, the wifi turns off after the set duration. Now you need to break free of the powerful inertia of rest, get off your comfy position, and walk till the wifi router back to turn it back on.
More often than not, you will stop watching as the timer not only makes you aware of the duration spent watching but also adds a whole lot of inconvenience to the mix.
Find Other Forms of Entertainment
Boredom and a lot of leisure time is the perfect recipe for a disastrous binge-watch session. To quell boredom you need to find hobbies and other forms of entertainment.
As an avid reader, reading is an amazing habit that I love and strongly recommend.
11 Practical Tips to Build a Lifetime Reading Habit
From a lifelong reader who has read hundreds of books.
There are gazillions of other hobbies to explore — painting, listening to music, gardening, playing a sport, traveling, writing, learning to play a musical instrument, cooking, baking, etc.
In a Nutshell
Binge-watching is like a drug that provides an escape into another world and makes you feel “good” thanks to the dopamine release.
Binging once in a while is okay but addiction can have serious side effects such as — eye strain, disrupted sleep, isolation, anxiety, and depression.
9 tips to keep your binge-watching habit in check.
- Get off the bed. Use a couch or desk to watch. Use your bed for sleep and sex only.
- Use apps such as Freedom, StayFocusd, LeechBlock to limit binge-watching.
- Turn off autoplay on your streaming service.
- “Earn” your episodes. Use a reward system where you reward yourself with a few episodes after the completion of a certain task.
- Set an alarm to be aware of the time and hence be more likely to quit.
- Don’t “Purge-watch”. Don’t watch a show out of compulsion, peer pressure or just to get it over with. Watch a show only if you enjoy it.
- Don’t binge alone. Watching with friends, family, or in a group makes you binge lesser.
- Use a WiFi timer as having to get up and turn on the wifi might make you reconsider continuing the binge.
- Find hobbies and other forms of entertainment such as reading, drawing, painting, cooking, gardening, etc.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this, you might also like,
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