True Story Tuesday: Watching Old Reruns Reduces Stress


Do you ever go home after a long day and find solace in hamming it up with old friends on the couch? Do your old friends go by the names Rachel, Monica, Pheobe, Ross, Chandler, and Joey? No? How about Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer?

Don’t worry; you’re not alone.
A new study has found that watching old television reruns helps reduce stress. The fantastical fictional worlds of beloved characters help us better our moods and restore mental capacity to take on life’s continuous challenges – sometimes more effectively than real-life social contact.
Real friendships come with needs, demands, conflicts, and complex emotions that often do the opposite of mitigate stress. Granted, 99% of the time real relationships are much more fulfilling than one sided connections made through the tube,  but sometimes there really is nothing like kicking back in Joey and Chandler’s apartment – and science proves it.
The study was tested in several ways, one of which included stressed participants who had recently immersed themselves in a familiar fictional world, and those who had not, complete a mental concentration test. Those who zoned out to fiction beforehand performed far better.
The second experiment tracked the long-term disposition of participants to turn to reruns and if it improved their moods after stressful situations. Those who watched episodes of their favourite shows proved happier.
Television does such an excellent job of creating diverse and complex characters – more so than films where the character’s lifespan in most cases lasts a few hours. In television, we may follow a character or group of characters through years. We see the character develop, change physically, and their presence in our living room is nearly guaranteed at least 22 days of the year.
Part of the joy of reruns lies in the sense of nostalgia and predictability they provide. The show may take us back to a previous moment in our life, be it childhood or a happier time, and because we’ve watched it before we know what is going to happen – a safe feeling rarely felt in real life.
Of course, doctors aren’t quick to prescribe television as a way to deal with stress. They would much rather you try out exercise, a changed lifestyle, or better time management, but in reality there is no harm in finding solace in reruns. Everyone has their way of dealing, and if yours is rewatching the first season of Buffy, you don’t have to feel guilty about it – science proves you’ll be better off in the end.

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