Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

How Rewatching Comfort Shows Can Improve Your Mental Health

This semester more than ever, I’ve found myself rewatching old favorite shows in my rare moments of downtime rather than branching out and exploring new media. I used to feel a little guilty watching the same shows and movies because I was thinking about everything in my Netflix list that would remain unwatched. Recently, however, I haven’t wanted to expend any extra mental energy to familiarize myself with new plots and characters. Turns out, more than just providing you with an inexplicable sense of comfort, there are genuine, proven mental health benefits in all those rewatches of New Girl, The Office and Friends.

[bf_image id="4wfk478rbwnj89r6wbj8mvv7"]

Before COVID-19 hit last March, I’d never really thought much about the unpredictability of life. For the most part, things in my life tended to go how I expected them to: my family had always been graced with relatively good health, I got into the colleges I thought I would and didn’t get into the ones I thought I wouldn’t. I never even had to suffer the stomach-plummeting terror of a pop quiz. I guess it was only a matter of time until I experienced that the world doesn’t really work like that; instead, it throws you curveballs that can potentially change the course of your entire life. 

All that to say that COVID-19 threw me for a loop, as I imagine everyone can relate to. I learned that “normal” life is something that you don’t really know exists until it’s gone. I also learned that I tend to fall behind on my self-care habits when I feel like my life is functioning outside of my control. This semester in particular, in order to cope with my ever-mounting stress, I channeled all my energy into my schoolwork, thinking that working harder and putting in longer hours equated to maximizing my productivity. Instead, I was perpetuating the cyclical nature of my stress, never leaving myself time to take a break. I’ve fallen months behind on my bullet journal, which I had previously prided myself on keeping up with every week, and I pushed my nightly routines of journaling and reading for fun to the (nonexistent) back burner. The only time I’d allot myself to decompress were the half-hour breaks I’d take for meals, during which I’d shut off my school-focused brain entirely and escape into worlds and characters I already knew so well: New Girl and iCarly.

[bf_image id="q2wioz-cdl1mg-2wp9px"]

Even implementing this small daily dose of happiness had enormous changes on my mood and well-being: I had something to look forward to, even if it was only a 22-minute sitcom I had seen multiple times before. It’s precisely because I had seen these shows before that rewatching them had such a positive impact. According to psychologists, nostalgia plays a powerful role in improving our mental health. The nostalgia associated with your comfort shows not only serves as a form of escape, but research shows that it also helps to provide optimism about the future and counteract loneliness and anxiety. Rewatches can remind us of happier times when we watched the show previously, and can feel like a hug from an old friend. Psychologist Pamela Rutledge also says that the repetition of rewatching your favorite show “‘reaffirms that there’s order in the world,’” which can “‘create a sense of safety and comfort on a primal level.’” Simply knowing what’s going to happen in a rewatch, without worrying about the unknown fates of favorite characters or cherished relationships, can provide this sense of control. It also doesn’t hurt that you know for a fact that you’ll enjoy the show, so you don’t have to worry about not liking it, or getting tired or bored by it. 

Since experiencing these advantages of comfort shows firsthand, I’ve made it a priority to devote time for at least an episode or two every day. I finished rewatching New Girl for a second time last week, and what did I immediately turn to the next time I had some free time while eating a meal? My favorite New Girl episodes, once again. (For anyone who’s curious, “Background Check” is my all-time favorite episode. It’s absolutely perfect, from start to finish, and no matter how many times I watch it, it’s always guaranteed to make me almost choke on whatever I’m eating because of how hard I’m laughing.)

[bf_image id="5r5zvjbt7b8snq5q2vmq3jgx"] So the next time you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, either by school, work, or life itself, treat yourself to an episode of your favorite show. Comfort shows are more important now than ever, since they remain one constant that we have control of in our drastically unpredictable world. 

Abby Synnes

Wisconsin '23

Abby is a senior at UW-Madison studying English and communication sciences and disorders. She is an enthusiast of good books, Taylor Swift, and vanilla lattes.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️