According To A Psychologist, Binge-Watching ‘Friends’ Can Actually Ease Your Anxiety

By lgentile - June 26, 2019

When Netflix announced that they were taking Friends off of their streaming service last year, people went insane. INSANE! They lost their minds thinking about life without Ross and Rachel. Not cool, Netflix. Not cool at all. Then the tweets started rolling in. One angry Netflix subscriber wrote, “THE ONLY REASON I HAVE AN ACCOUNT WITH NETFLIX IS TO REWATCH FRIENDS. WHY @netflix ARE YOU HURTING US?”. Another soon-to-be ex Netflix subscriber tweeted, “If you guys ever take off Friends I will NOT keep paying my hard earned money for your service!!!” Oh damn!

Netflix listened to their viewers and they were forced to keep Friends in its 2019 streaming lineup until 2020. “The Holiday Armadillo has granted your wish: Friends will still be there for you in the US throughout 2019,” Netflix wrote, alongside an image of Ross in his iconic armadillo costume. Genius! And you may think that people were overreacting when they responded to the possibility of losing Friends, but it turns out that binge-watching Friends is actually good for your mental health and losing it could be detrimental to your psyche.

A Breath Of Fresh Air


When they made the announcement, they told their viewers that they were only keeping Friends until 2020. So get on it,  people!

And what is it about Friends that makes it so special? When you watch it, don’t you immediately feel better? It’s like a breath of fresh air.

No matter what kind of day you’ve had, doesn’t everything feel so much better when you are hanging out with Monica, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, Chandler and Ross?

I'll Be There For You


Well it turns out “I’ll be there for you” isn’t just a lyric from the Friends theme song. It’s also a promise from the sitcom to all of its fans that suffer from anxiety.

According to Marc Hekster, clinical psychologist at The Summit Clinic, binge-watching shows like Friends can help calm you down if you are having anxious thoughts.

So, next time you are in need of some deep breaths, throw on some Friends and see if that helps.

We Need It To Survive!


Well, now Netflix really can’t take it away from us. We need it in order to survive! This is a public health concern!

It’s like having free therapy. Well, it’s $12.99 per month but you know what we mean. It is still the cheapest therapy in town, that’s for sure!

They are already keeping us from watching Seinfeld. Please don’t take Friends away from us too! We can’t handle it. Life is hard enough with it!

15 Years Off The Air


And while Friends has not been on the air for 15 years, it is still extremely popular with people from all different age groups, all over the world.

It hasn’t been on TV in 15 years… we are so old, aren’t we? While some of the show’s jokes are a bit outdated, the show certainly has proved that it has staying power.

Staying power and now we know that it has healing power too. No wonder why we are hooked!

Help Ease Anxiety


So why are shows like Friends and other sitcoms able to help ease anxiety for those who are suffering?

“Having worked for over a period of 20 years with those experiencing anxiety,” Hekster told Metro, “I can conclude that among other factors, it is the repetitive and relational nature of programs such as Friends and Big Bang Theory that will be doing the trick” when it comes to easing anxious thoughts.

Minus the Ross and Rachel drama that had us all on our toes, we can see his point!

Using 'Friends' As Therapy


“Anxiety is in fact the human minds’ alarm system, indicating that something is wrong, and usually the result of pent up and unprocessed feelings,” he continued.

“If the feelings can’t find a way of being expressed, the alarm system triggers, and it is usually not very pleasant for the person suffering with anxiety.”

Booting up the TV, putting your feet up and watching a few episodes can ease the mind and help you get on with your day.

Anxiety Sucks


And if you have ever experienced anxiety, you know that it is not a great feeling at all.

Having anxiety can make you feel like your heart is going to beat out of your chest. You may feel irritable and on the edge.

All of this can make it impossible to perform everyday tasks and get on with your day. Thankfully, there are some tricks that can help you ease anxiety so you can move forward.

Kick The Anxiety To The Curb


In order to help kick anxiety, mental health professionals recommend breathing and counting exercises. You may also find that meditating or doing yoga is another useful way to ease your mind.

But this new trick, binge-watching your favorite show, is going to resonate with so many people.

Especially those who can’t turn their brain off during yoga or find meditation boring. No one is going to say no to watching a few episodes of Friends. Doctor’s orders.

Why It Cures Anxiety


And even if you don’t suffer from anxiety, you will probably find comfort in re-watching shows like Friends over and over again.

Why is it a restart? What about it works so well as a way to decompress? Is it because it’s goofy and silly but also relatable?

Is it because we get to hear Phoebe serenade us with “Smelly Cat”? That song is our jam! Sure, all of these are reasons to keep watching, but it is actually something much more specific.

Feeling A Sense Of Relief


According to Hekster, “Friends is about an experience of repair, of watching the characters in the show repeatedly having worries, which then get repaired and soothed, usually in the context of other relationships in their lives.”

So when we are watching, it gives us a sense of relief. We think, “Well, they figured it out and therefore, I will too”.

Every episode is wrapped up in a little bow in the end. Wouldn’t it be nice if real life was like that too?

It's A TV Show


It all makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? Think about it. Even when Ross is yelling, “We were on a break!” over and over again, you know that things will get resolved. They have to!

Sure, our mouths dropped to the floor when Ross said, “I take thee, Rachel” during his wedding to Emily.

But we know that it’s a TV show. We know the structure of the show. We’ve seen so many episodes. We know all the characters and we know that eventually it will all work itself out.

Focusing On Complex Problems


“Complex problems are made the focus of each episode,” Hekster told Metro, “and then they are resolved within the relationships which are the essence of the shows. It is pure escapism, excellent, bring it on.”

And escaping is exactly what we find ourselves doing when we are watching the show.

We get to lose ourselves in the show and focus on Rachel’s problems at work and Monica’s complicated relationship with Richard instead of focusing on our own problems.

Finding Comfort And Healing


And when we get to escape into their lives, we find comfort and healing in that.

“This is about the healing nature of repetition,” Hekster explained. “We see this in children, resolving child-like feelings and emotions by doing the same thing over and again — often to the incredulity of their parents.”

So what he is saying is that we are all just a bunch of big babies? While we don’t want to believe that, it’s true.

The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants


No matter what, we can depend on our favorite Friends through thick and thin and we know that they will never let us down.

“It is soothing to see the same outcome every time and know you can depend on it. This is at the heart of human development,” Hektser continued.

The heart wants what the heart wants, doesn’t it? Well, maybe we should ask Rachel and Ross that same question although we know the answer.

Tread Lightly


But you need to be careful and tread lightly if this is the way you manage your anxiety.

Hekster warns us that while this repetition is comforting and soothing in the short term, it can also sort of trick you into believing that real life is like TV just a little too much.

“On the negative side,” he said, “none of it is very real, and how can life ever be so…kind of perfect? It can’t.”

Stopping By Central Perk


So while watching Friends on repeat, over and over again, can be a great way to ease your anxious thoughts, don’t let yourself get too lost in the show.

It may help bring you back to earth, but just remember that it is a TV show and it isn’t really how real life works.

Even if we wish it was all real life and that we could go grab a coffee at Central Perk every morning. Aw, wouldn’t that be nice?

Joey's Airport Trick!


And while we are escaping into the world of Friends, let’s talk about some of our favorite Friends moments.

How many of you are obsessed with the episode where Joey wears all of Chandler’s clothes? Brilliant! And how many of you have tried that trick when you are traveling?

Can’t fit everything you need into your luggage? Well, wear as much as you can and pull a Joey and you will be good to go!

PIVOT Your Mood


And how many of you have been moving into a new apartment or you are moving furniture around and you can’t contain yourself from having a PIVOT moment?

It’s so simple, it’s so relatable, it’s so hilarious, how could you not get lost in it?

Next time you are stressed out, just put on this episode, have a laugh and move on. If they can get that couch up the stairs, you can definitely PIVOT your mood.

The One With Unagi


Or what about The One With Unagi? When the girls take a self defense class and Ross tries to teach them what “Unagi” is.

The girls mock him knowing that unagi means freshwater eel. He then taunts them the whole episode jumping out at them and scaring them half to death to make his point.

This episode not only made us laugh off a bad day, but it also put us in the mood for some killer sushi!

When In Doubt....


And if you watch all of these episodes and you still can’t beat your bad mood, here is a foolproof way to turn your frown upside down.

Go ahead and throw on some Smelly Cat, then sing along with the group and everything will be a okay!

Well, it may not heal you completely, but you will have the song stuck in your head for the rest of the day which might be a nice distraction from whatever is getting you down.