Psychologists Say Watching Old TV Re-Runs Can Actually Ease Anxiety

Watching your old favorite shows can help relieve anxiety and depression.

The cast of 'Friends' stand around together.
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Watching your old favorite shows can help relieve anxiety and depression.

Do you find yourself turning on an older show like Friends, Golden Girls or Seinfeld after at the end of a stressful day? Maybe it’s the same episodes you’ve seen dozens of times before. Nevertheless, there’s something comforting about watching re-runs, or even just keeping them on in the background. For many, there’s a sense of nostalgia that comes along with these kinds of shows, and watching them may bring back fond memories. Now psychologists are saying that watching re-runs can actually ease anxiety and help a person experience mental peace, according to Today.

We all know that watching too much television isn’t good for our mental and spiritual health. Nevertheless, a little screen time, particularly in times of stress when you need to unwind, might not be such a bad idea. In some ways, it’s kind of like comfort food. Everyone has those go-to food items they crave when they are feeling down. Maybe it’s their favorite meal their mother used to cook when they were a child. Old television shows have the same quality in that there is something comfortable and familiar about them.

Will Meyerhofer is a New York-based psychotherapist who claims that watching your favorite old show can help soothe both feelings of anxiety and mild depression. He explained that someone could find relief from their symptoms in the mere second it takes to turn on the television.

“For my clients, these old shows are like the food they grew up with. The Brady Bunch or The Facts of Life or The Jeffersons is like that beloved baloney sandwich on Wonder Bread with just enough mayo the way mom used to make. In therapy terms, it’s an instant — and for the most part healthy — regression in the service of the ego.”

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Krystine Batcho, a licensed psychologist and a professor at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., studies the affects of nostalgia on the brain. Many people crave that feeling of nostalgia from time to time, particularly when their feel their stress levels rising. The feeling of nostalgia, in what ever form it may come in, has the ability to provide comfort and calm someone down, Batcho said.

“When people are stressed, or anxious, or feeling out of control, nostalgia helps calm them down. It’s comforting. It’s analogous to a hug from your mom or dad or being cuddled.”

Turning on an old favorite before bed can even help with insomnia as it allows the brain to rest and prepare for sleep.