Yes, it is beneficial for you to play that episode of Friends again! Learn why rewatching TV shows may be good for your mental health.
There’s no better feeling then watching your favorite TV show over again. The shows we watch repeatedly for pure enjoyment are also known as “comfort shows,” and our tendency to watch (and rewatch) them became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic. After all, there’s no shortage of beloved content thanks to streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Apple TV—the list goes on!
Yet, have you ever wondered why we tend to gravitate towards watching the same show over and over again rather than starting a new one. Isn’t watching a sitcom like Friends or a show like Gilmore Girls—or any of your favorite program picks—for the tenth time more than enough?
It turns out that there’s a scientific reason why our brains prefer to watch the same TV shows over again. In fact, it’s not only satisfying, it’s great for mental health.
Why do we rewatch the same TV shows?
There are a few main reasons that we end up watching our favorite classic shows over.
First, is that our brains strongly dislike uncertainty and unpredictability. Our brains have something called a “cognitive load,” which requires us to make decisions, pay attention, and store and utilize information.
According to Dr. Jennifer Fayard, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Ouachita Baptist University, “Cognitive load refers to the amount of stress put on our working memory.” During hectic times, such as what we all experienced during the pandemic, cognitive loads were under way more stress than they’re used to. As a result, shows familiar to us and full of predictability became anxiety-reducing.
We also tend to naturally pick shows that are familiar to us due to our biases. We all tend to adhere to a bias called the status quo bias. The status quo bias is when we tend to pick something familiar to us—which happens the more we’re exposed to something—rather than something new.
Researchers William Samuelson and Richard Zeckhauser who first introduced the concept explain that status quo bias means, “maintaining one’s current or previous decision … a series of decision-making experiments shows that individuals disproportionately stick with the status quo.” While something new can be fun because it’s unfamiliar, it can also be disappointing and even cause stress in contrast to shows we already know and love.
The benefits of rewatching shows
Luckily, it’s super rewarding to watch your favorite show again and again.
Because you already know what’s going to happen in shows you’ve seen multiple times, it can actually help us feel more energized and comfortable. It’s the reason why watching shows about our favorite friend groups can feel like being with family. After being exposed to characters and plot-lines so many times, characters can feel like people who are familiar to us, who we know and are even friends with.
Studies show that we can even experience the same emotions while rewatching a show that we experienced the first time watching it. AKA that may be why all the best teen shows still remain ones that can be the best go-to’s after a stressful day.
Next time you put on your favorite show, you can do so knowing it’s a great way to practice the gift of self-care.
- Psychology Today: “Why Rewatching TV Shows Feels So Good“
- Journal of Risk and Uncertainty: “Status Quo Bias in Decision Making“