Netflix comfort shows vs. meditation to relax your mind
In the fast-paced world we live in, it can be quite difficult to find time to relax and unwind. However, it is important to prioritize "relaxing" because it is important for maintaining your mental, emotional and physical health. Traditionally, people relax by reading, walking, or meditating. However, the rise of streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu has introduced a new and somewhat controversial way to relax by giving people a sense of comfort during difficult times. This blog post is about the psychologically proven benefits of taking time for yourself and how it can improve your overall well-being. Here we go!
A quick 5-minute solution to relax
Feeling stressed and need a quick fix to help you stop feeling so overwhelmed and just relax, unwind and clear your head? Don't worry, I have something for you! As an aspiring psychologist, I know that when I want to take a minute for myself and relax, I turn away from anything that stresses me out and turn to something that calms me down. My recommendation for you would be to put some distance between you and the stressor, step away from what is overwhelming you, and turn your attention to something that doesn't require a lot of IQ or mental energy. For example (drum roll!) watching a cozy series on Netflix! Now this may sound a little controversial because sometimes people think it's an addiction or in other cases a "curse." That's not entirely true. A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology explains that watching a favorite show can improve your mood and reduce stress. This suggests that relaxing with familiar and enjoyable content can contribute to better mental health. So go ahead and watch that show without feeling guilty!
Among my favorite series are Stranger Things and the anime Naruto. These are a couple of series that I enjoyed watching as a kid, and they still calm me down because they take me to another level where there are no stressors.
The reason why television series are considered a quick relaxation method is because they allow viewers to escape. The compelling storylines, fleshed out characters, and engaging narration of each episode allow viewers to temporarily detach themselves from their everyday worries. This little mental vacation can be incredibly therapeutic, giving you a much-needed break from the pressures of life.
Modern problems require modern solutions
Multiple studies conducted by neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School have found that regular mindfulness and meditation exercises, even as little as 10 minutes a day, can reduce gray matter density in certain areas of the brain. I recommend the app Headspace, a mindfulness and meditation app that lets you make mindfulness a daily habit and do good things for your mind. Headspace has also collaborated with Netflix to bring viewers an interactive experience called "Headspace Unwind Your Mind" to help you sleep, relax and meditate! Isn't it amazing how simple and modern the solutions are that are available to us if we keep our hands off it?
However, relaxation techniques like meditation and breathing exercises don't work 100% for me and maybe it does for you. I generally feel relaxed when I spend time doing something that gives me a lot of peace and comfort. This difference is mainly due to the individual differences that define us. The vast number of relaxation methods available in the modern world gives us numerous ways to relax. These areas of the brain, made up of the aforementioned gray matter, are particularly known to be associated with emotion regulation and self-awareness. So by engaging in a relaxation method that works best for YOU, rather than limiting yourself to traditional relaxation methods, you can transform your brain by improving its overall ability to tolerate and cope with stressors, while promoting mental calmness.
The modern world and its impact on your mental health
In our rapidly changing world, we are faced with numerous demands and challenges that can take a toll on our mental health, which in turn can affect our physical well-being. It is not uncommon for us to feel overwhelmed, stressed or anxious. However, the fact that it is no longer "uncommon" today shows how normal and common it is for people to have mental health issues. That's why it's so important that we focus on our mental well-being and prioritize it over everything else. This way we can avoid burnout and maintain a positive outlook on life.
It has been scientifically proven that relaxing the mind has a positive effect on the brain. When we participate in relaxation activities, the brain responds positively and releases the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which also act as cortisol inhibitors. This decrease has been associated with reports of lower stress levels and increased feelings of calm (Kirschbaum et al., 2021). Research also shows that relaxation can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol while promoting the growth of neural connections associated with a person's overall well-being and emotional resilience.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression and anxiety are among the leading causes of disability worldwide. You may have noticed that I used the word "disability" to describe mental illness. In the traditional world, we did not consider mental illness to be a disability, let alone attach any relevance or importance to it. However, as the world has rebelled against the outdated traditions of the time, we have become understanding enough to place mental illness on the same pedestal and treat it with the same seriousness as physical illness. Considering how busy modern man has become, it's no wonder if our lives are always connected to everything. It can be quite stressful! That's why it's important to take time to relax, because it can help us feel better. The "always-on" culture we indulge in is especially exacerbated by the addictive use of smartphones and digital communication. The lines between work and leisure seem to be blurring, and it's hard to tell the difference.
Stress, work and YOUR mental health
A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology finds that there is a clear link between ongoing work-related stress and negative mental health effects. The study mentions that continuous stress over time can lead to burnout, which includes physical and emotional exhaustion, decreased performance and feelings of inactivity. Recall an instance when you felt frustrated and overwhelmed because of a particular task or situation that you managed over an extended period of time. The frustration, stress, and overwhelm were caused primarily because you may have pushed yourself beyond your limits. That's why it's important to be aware of your own limits so you don't overextend yourself.
The Stress in America study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that younger generations experience more stress when it comes to political, cultural and financial concerns, as well as when it comes to succeeding in life. A generation of stressed people who do not use relaxation techniques can lead to an imbalance in society as physical and mental health problems continue to increase. Therefore, it is important that we know about the challenges and consequences that the importance of relaxation brings to mental health.
The benefits of relaxation for creativity and productivity
Many people believe that short breaks between work are unproductive. However, scientific studies have shown that taking time to relax can significantly increase our creativity and productivity. Letting our minds rest and wander can improve our problem-solving skills and encourage innovative thinking. Taking breaks can also open the door to new perspectives and insights.
In a study conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara, participants completed a creative thinking task. Participants were divided into two groups: One group worked in a concentrated manner, and the other had a brief relaxation period. The results of this study showed that the group with the relaxation period increased their creative problem solving performance by 40%. (Baird et al., 2012).
Our human brain finds it easier to think clearly when it is not rushed or in a survival mode that constantly depletes its capabilities. To all you creative geniuses, I hope you're hydrated and relaxed, because your brain needs plenty of rest and recovery to get the most out of you!
The benefits of relaxation on sleep quality
Relaxing before bed not only affects our waking time, but also has a great impact on the quality of our sleep. That's why many experts recommend that we turn off our phones, laptops or other digital devices that trigger a feeling of restlessness in our brain. It is important that your body and mind feel relaxed and calm before going to bed so that you have a good quality of sleep. The relaxation response that comes from relaxation techniques directly affects our sleep patterns. Studies have found that people who do relaxation exercises before bed have better sleep quality and longer sleep times overall.
Research by Xie et al. (2018) found that people who practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises before bed experience better sleep quality and fewer sleep disturbances during sleep.
Finding a Balance: Methods to relax
Making relaxation a part of our daily routine doesn't have to be a challenge. You can start with something simple, like taking short breaks during your workday to do some quick relaxation exercises. You can also take time in the evening to read, take your pet to the park, breathe deeply, or practice gentle yoga.
If the above traditional methods of relaxation don't appeal to you, with a few clicks you can watch a Netflix comfort show that will give you instant gratification and allow you to relax. As Freud explains, our mind is controlled by the ego, the id, and the superego. The id is the problematic part of our mind that demands instant gratification. And it's a challenge to deal with it when you can't find the right balance and meet its demands for quick relaxation when you're highly stressed.
This is where the Netflix comfort shows or other television series come in, offering you instant gratification and much-needed relaxation. They transport you to other worlds and captivating stories, offering you the chance to escape reality and get inside your own head. Unlike meditation and other traditional relaxation techniques that require dedication and practice. Netflix is a convenient and easy option for those seeking relaxation without the added complications.
However, it is important to find the right balance that suits your personal preferences so that you can reap the full benefits of relaxation. Aside from turning on Netflix every time I'm stressed, I've managed to strike a balance by offering myself a variety of relaxation methods that many may find quite unconventional.
Personally, I also love spending time with my two dogs because it helps me exercise and unwind and relax after a long day. I spend time with my close friends or partner to relax and talk about my day. Sometimes talking to someone you are close to about things that are stressing you out also helps comfort you. On days when I don't feel like socializing, I take a little self-care appointment to help me relax and calm my body and mind.
It's always important to put yourself first and take care of yourself. I know it's not always easy to find the best relaxation method to clear your head. You have to try everything that you think will work for you, and try a lot in the process. My advice to you readers: Take time out of your busy schedules and explore the many options of different relaxation methods available to you. Pay attention to what appeals to you, what helps you relax, and what gives you a sense of joy, peace, and calm.
Remember that self-care is not selfish, but a necessary investment in your own well-being. By taking the time to explore different relaxation methods, you are actively contributing to your own path to balance and happiness. That's why it's important to be patient with yourself. What works for one person may not work for another. So engage in the process of discovery without pressuring yourself to use a particular method. Your body and mind will thank you, and soon you'll feel better equipped to handle life's challenges that may be stressing you out.
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