• Denise Cartagena

Why Binging Shows Is Less Fun Now Than It Was 3 Months Ago

What have you been up to during quarantine? There’s so many jokes online about rewatching shows for the 100th time, trying out new hobbies, and being more lenient with drinking rules. I’ve literally watched countless shows and movies. It's kind of good because now I’m more attuned to pop culture, but it cost me soooooo much valuable time.

So you have some background information about me, I had a really bad habit of watching too much tv to begin with. I can’t help it! I tended to leave the tv on for some background noise in my apartment and before I knew it, a few hours would go by. And on top of that, I’d always want to just come home and unwind after a day of my physically demanding bar job. What can you do? Anyway, so when I got furloughed, I didn’t really know what to do with my extra time. I would make a drink, watch a show, smoke, watch a movie, eat a snack, drink some more. I didn’t even realize it, but two and a half months slipped right through my fingers! Lol (but not really bc I was really out of shape and could drink more than I should physically be able to)! But one day, with the most important realization I could have had at the time, I decided that I needed to do more.

It all started with limiting my substance use and working out. Then, I started getting curious about ways I could be better about my money so I started reading. Once the dusty, spiderwebbed wheels in my brain started turning again, I had rediscovered what it felt like to do something meaningful! For the first time, I could remember and see my real reason for coaching more clearly than ever!

“Okay, Denise, we get it. You were lazy and went through a mental transformation.” So how does this all tie together?

It’s likely that all of us pay for streaming subscriptions. Why wouldn’t we? It makes it so easy to have so many shows and movies at the touch of our remotes! And honestly, what’s better than relaxing with a good show and a glass of wine after a stressful day? When we engage in activities like these, we are receiving “reward”, or pleasure, and the ease of it makes it all the more inviting.

To briefly explain it, pleasure is something that makes us feel good. There’s obviously different degrees to which we can experience it, I mean, you can’t really compare the contentment of binging a show with a glass of wine and the sensation of an orgasm (...or can you..?). My point is that there are different experiences under the umbrella of pleasure, such as joy, contentment, and ecstasy. But one thing is true about all the feelings of pleasure, and it is that we actively seek its rewards and try to make it last as long as possible. In other words, pleasure is fleeting…

Moreover, when thinking about the level of difficulty of activities, we are drawn to what is easier. This can happen for various reasons, like you used up all your willpower at work or even something as simple as you got distracted. Combine this with the rewards of that dopamine high, and it’s easy to get hooked!

Even though activities, such as binging shows, bring us pleasure, it’s also important to remember that not only is pleasure fleeting, but it’s also adaptive! This is so important! This means that we can engage in a pleasurable activity forever, but its effects will wear off eventually and we won’t be able to feel that sense of pleasure to the same degree as we did before! So if you’re feeling bored turning the tv on day-in and day-out because we're now going on Month 5 of Quarantine, that’s your signal to try something else!

Don’t worry, that sense of reward will return eventually, and probably quickly because we are being bombarded with so many new shows (new stimuli) right now. But what would it feel like to invite some other activities that challenged your skill set and allowed you to progress in those skills? What if you could find an activity that could bring more meaning into your life, like learning to cook a family recipe, making a photo collage with the photos piling up in your phone, or investing time in a phone call with a friend you haven’t talked to in a while? What if you can do something now that will allow you to maximize your potential to receive the reward of pleasure in the future?

As always, you are in charge and decide what you will and will not do. I’m also not implying that what you have been doing is wrong or bad in any way! Remember though, that time is passing and will continue to do so regardless of whatever actions you take. Will you be satisfied in the future if you continue what you’ve been doing now?

Quarantine has forced us to find new ways to spend our time. Doing something easy, such as binging new shows, has been rewarding and allows us to return with ease in hopes to find the same sense of pleasure we experienced in it before. But repeated behavior, even when it provides pleasure, is adaptive and its effects wear off eventually. Finding new activities that create meaning in our lives, although more challenging, can allow us to use, and perhaps improve on, our unique skill sets. Regardless of actions taken, time will continue to pass. Understanding what we want in the future in key.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. What does your typical daily schedule look like?

  2. What is an activity that you find fun and pleasurable?

  3. In a year from now, what do you hope to have accomplished?

  4. What is a baby step in line with your goal that you can take right now?

  5. How can you incorporate that baby step into your daily schedule?

Pro tip: Before answering the questions, take a minute to get situated and focus on the present moment. Once you are settled, visualize yourself as if you were living your life one year from now. Perhaps you are able to feel a sense of accomplishment (or not). Amongst other benefits, “looking back” on our experiences of today can allow us to better connect to our motivation and/or visualize what we truly want in the long-term. This one is a little confusing, so of course if you need any help, feel free to reach out!

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Happy Growing & Best Wishes,