Sometimes, on a rainy Sunday, there’s just nothing better than kicking back and plowing through a season or two of one of the critically acclaimed shows you’ve got in your Netflix queue. But while binge-watching may have become America’s favorite new pastime, it can also take you to some pretty dark places.
As you snap out of an unconscious stupor at 4 a.m. and are faced with the choice of watching another episode or going to bed to get a few precious hours of sleep before having to get up for work, you might come to the realization that you have bit of a problem. So, if you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom with your streaming service addiction and are looking to cut back on your non-stop viewing marathons, here are a few helpful tips than can help you on the road back to regular media consumption habits.
7. Try to Savor Your Shows
According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the faster you consume media like TV shows, the less enjoyment you actually derive from them. This is because when you watch the same program for hours and hours on end, your brain becomes bored with it and you might miss out on some of the subtle intricacies that make it really great. This effect is similar to what happens when you eat too much of your favorite food and realize it’s no longer the stimulating adventure for your taste buds it once was.
By allowing yourself to ease into shows that you’re really excited about, you give yourself a chance to really let all the characters and story sink in. You might even find yourself contemplating one of the episodes you just watched and start building your own theories about what’s going to happen next. Furthermore, you’ll also notice that the anticipation built up in the time between viewings makes you far more engaged in the show the next time you sit to watch it.
It’s often said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, so why not try putting a bit of space between you and your current steaming seductress.
6. Avoid Purge-Watching
Most people like to only bing-watch shows they’re really in to. But sometimes you hear about a show that everyone’s talking about and, even though you don’t find it as compelling as other people, you force yourself to sit down and watch it because you feel it’s culturally relevant. This type of binge-watching has come to be known as “purge-watching,” and you should probably avoid doing it.
Usually, having the guts to see something through to the end is an admirable trait, but there’s really nothing all that admirable about spending hours of your life sitting through shows you don’t even find engaging. Just drop those tiresome, uninteresting shows so you can devote your time to something more fulfilling or productive. It’ll feel much better than choking down episodes just to cross something off your viewing list.
5. Take a Break When the Action Does
TV shows are typically scripted in such a way that the first few episodes will hook you and then you’ll keep coming back for more. Having immediate access to all the episodes in an entire series can often be engrossing, and the never-ending succession of cliffhangers is hard to pull away from. But if you’re mindful of how a lot of shows with a continual plot are structured, you should be able to pick out and eventually predict the various rises and falls in action.
So once you’ve identified that there’s going to be a bit of a slowdown in the narrative, be it over the course of a season or even within a single episode, you can use that as a good landing point to stop watching and save the sensational cliffhangers for later.
4. Turn Autoplay Off on Your Streaming Services
A lot of streaming services like Hulu and Netflix automatically play the next episode in a series immediately after the previous one ends. This definitely makes binge-watching easier because even if you were thinking of stopping, you might not simply because the remote is out of reach. Sure, Netflix interrupts your marathons every now and again with one of its hollow inquiries asking if you still wish to proceed watching. But those are usually met with vehement defiance as you’re left feeling like an angsty teenager who so totally wishes their annoying, snooping mother would just butt out of their entire life forever. “Yes, Netflix! I’m still watching Charmed.”
By disabling the autoplay feature in the settings, you’ll be given a natural break and forced to actively decide if you want to continue watching. The mere act of having to push the play button every time between episodes will also keep you more aware of how much you’re actually binging if things start getting out of control. With autoplay off you might even find yourself taking a break after every episode you watch (gasp!).
3. Incorporate a Fitness Plan into Shows You Watch Obsessively
It can be tough to get enough exercise when the fifth season of 24 is demanding all of your available free time. But sitting around all day watching Kiefer Sutherland foil terrorism isn’t going to do your body any good. So why not combine a little exercise with your obsessive watching. You can even make a game out of it with simple rules like, “do ten push-ups every time Jack Bauer kills someone without provocation,” or “do twenty sit-ups every time someone dies because they don’t take Jack’s advice.” The motivational possibilities are endless.
2. Allot Yourself a Specific Amount of Viewing Time and Stick to it
Don’t think you have to quit all your shows cold turkey in order to stop your binge-watching. All you need to do is pace yourself and regulate the intake. One simple way to do this is to set an alarm for a moderate amount of time on your phone and, once it goes off, you cut yourself off for the day. However, if you find that you can’t trust yourself enough to hold to some flimsy, self-imposed alarm clock rule, there are guides available online that can show how to build a TV limiting system with a basic Arduino board.
1. Use Your Favorite Shows as a Reward System
Let’s face it, sometimes the urge to binge-watch is just too strong. Especially when Netflix drops entire seasons of new original series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones and we’re left looking like a bunch of salivating Labradors with a T-bone in our dish. But much like a dog who’s given a bone for good behavior, you can use unseen episodes of your favorite shows as a way to reward yourself for various life accomplishments. You don’t have to cure cancer or win the Nobel Peace Prize, simply doing your laundry or finishing that lingering assignment is all it takes. Then, you can sit down and enjoy your favorite shows knowing that they’re not just frivolous time-suckers, but useful, motivating tools that help you get things done in the real world.