Why Friends can be good for your mental health

Psychologists say watching your favourite shows in lockdown can be a mood booster, create a feeling of stability and stave off loneliness.Amid the chaos created by Covid, Dr Marny Lishman says rewatching the shows from one’s youth can trigger happy memories and help us cope better.“I find that in tough times, a lot of people will go back to shows from the past that they probably have already watched, just because nostalgia actually makes people feel good,” Lishman explains. “So, if we were consuming say the Gilmore Girls or Friends or something that we watched 20 years ago, then the brain takes us back to those times and it actually makes us feel good in the now. “That primal part of our brain doesn’t know the difference between a thought and reality, so it almost takes you back to the days when you were younger and probably more carefree, which actually elicits the emotion now. So, it’s actually very good for you, psychologically.”From a bloody epic such as Game Of Thrones, to the crinoline and lace of a period drama, Dr Lishman says some TV shows provide pure, unadulterated escapism from the monotony of being stuck inside your house 24/7.“The old-worldly shows – the Bridgertons and the Downton Abbeys – they’re so far removed from reality that a lot of people are watching them because it is very different to what’s happening right now,” she says.“So, there’s an element of escapism there for people, again, which makes us feel good.”Of course, it isn’t only sitcoms, rom-coms and fantasy adventures that make viewers feel good. It might sound strange, but psychologist Rea says, for some people, a high-octane action film or a suspenseful crime drama can be just as comforting.“We choose shows to increase our wellbeing (during lockdown),” she says. “So, our wellbeing might be that we are bored out of our brain so we watch terrorist shows because they incite fear or scare us. Basically, they stimulate our emotions.“Equally, if we’re hyper aroused or anxious, we might go for shows that are set in the 20th century, such as Downton Abbey to increase our positive psychology, our wellbeing.“If we’re feeling really insecure or frightened by Covid, some might want to watch shows they’ve seen before or that are very predictable so that we feel we have some control because we can anticipate the outcome of the show.” One of the worst parts of being confined to the house and unable to socialise with friends and family is the loneliness and sense of isolation that it causes, particularly for those who live alone. Rea says it’s understandable, then, that some people look to television to fill the gaps with romantic dramas or racy soaps because they’re not “feeling loved, touched or connected” in their real life.She adds that jumping on the bandwagon with hot new shows such as Mare Of Easttown and Gossip Girl – which were generating lots of buzz on social media – could also help people feel like they were part of a community, creating feelings and a sense of connectivity akin to water cooler chat people are accustomed to in the office.SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT● Mare Of Easttown, Binge: It’s the riveting thriller that had everyone wondering whodunit and marvelling at Kate Winslet’s acting prowess. When a teenage girl is killed, it leads a small town cop (Winslet) to investigate those closest to her.● Gossip Girl, Binge: Everyone’s favourite troll is back with a new Instagram account and a new group of trendy targets. Like the original, this drama features fierce fashion and biting social commentary.NOSTALGIA● The Secret Life Of Us, Netflix: Twenty years later, this Aussie drama starring Claudia Karvan and Deborah Mailman is still compelling viewing and takes you back to carefree days when no-one had heard of social distancing and face masks weren’t a must-have accessory.● Friends, Binge: From Chandler and Joey in their Barker lounges to Ross and Rachel’s romance, the recent reunion of everyone’s favourite six-some is a reminder of everything we loved about this iconic sitcom.JUST FOR LAUGHS● Schitt’s Creek, Foxtel on Demand: The brainchild of father and son comedy duo Eugene and Daniel Levy, this series about a spoiled family who move to a small town when they lose all their money cleaned up at the Emmys and won fans around the world.● Ted Lasso, Apple TV: A tie-dye-hoodie clad Jason Sudeikis won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of an inexperienced but enthusiastic American gridiron coach hired to lead a premiere soccer side in London by a vengeful divorcee. Season two drops on Friday.THRILLS AND SPILLS● Line Of Duty, Brit Box: Six seasons. Six different “bent coppers”. Six thrilling adventures. This brilliant British series follows a police anticorruption unit as they investigate their fellow officers, uncovering a vast criminal network within their midst along the way.● Lupin, Netflix: Set against the stunning backdrop of Paris, this French mystery follows professional thief Assane Diop (Omar Sy) on his elaborate quest to avenge his father’s death, using a childhood book as inspiration for his subterfuge.STEAMY SESSIONS● Bridgerton, Netflix: Pride and Prejudice meets Danielle Steele, this period drama from Shonda Rhimes of Grey’s Anatomy fame mixes old-fashioned romance with saucy romps that would make Jane Austen blush. ● Sex/Life, Netflix: Let’s be clear, you’re not watching this one for the dialogue, plot twists or acting. That’s all window dressing for characters finding new and racier ways to have sex, including THAT shower scene. FANTASTIC ADVENTURES● Game Of Thrones, Binge: A sweeping epic characterised by ambition and treachery that is punctuated by gruesome battles and titillating sex scenes. Oh, and there’s dragons. ● Loki, Disney+: After meeting his demise at the hands of Thanos in Avengers Infinity War, the God of Mischief (Tom Hiddleston) is back from the dead to wreak havoc with time as we know it and usher in a new era of Marvel movies. CATCH-UP TIME● Sopranos, Binge: The prequel movie to this groundbreaking HBO drama series is out in September with the late James Gandolfini’s son stepping into his father’s shoes to play a younger Tony. Before it lands, why not catch up (or remind yourself) why the original was such a hit.● Big Little Lies, Binge: It was girl power – on screen and off – that brought this book by Aussie author Liane Moriarty to the small screen. Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon starred in and produced this compelling murder mystery about secrets and scandals in suburbia.SO BAD IT’S GOOD● Emily In Paris, Netflix: An American girl (Phil Collin’s daughter, Lily) is sent to work for a magazine in Paris where she eats pastries, wears berets and falls in love. Is it cliched? Oui. Is it still enjoyable escapism? Bien sur.● Virgin River, Netflix: With all the schmaltz of Hallmark movie and a smattering of Northern Exposure’s quirkiness, a city nurse trying to outrun her past moves to a country town and soon finds herself swept up in local drama and swept off her feet by a handsome barman (played by Aussie star Martin Henderson).

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