Nothing's more relaxing than settling in to watch a great show on Netflix or Amazon Prime. But what makes this ritual even better? The fact therapists have found certain
shows can actually boost your mood, and in some cases, may even lessen the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
"SAD is a complex winter-related malady that recurs each year, most likely triggered by the
lack of sunlight in winter, which affects levels of hormones melatonin and serotonin in the part of the brain (hypothalamus) controlling mood, sleep, and appetite — our circadian rhythms," UKCP registered therapist Elaine Slater, who was recruited by SpareRoom to help conduct a survey into how TV shows can combat SAD, tells Bustle.
While Slater says taking in natural sunlight, getting plenty of exercise, and eating a nutrient-dense diet can
help alleviate symptoms, so can watching the right shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime. To figure out which were best for SAD, Slater looked for ones that met certain criteria. Shows that inspire hope, follow a character as they overcome challenges, and ones with messages about community and belonging, made the list, as well as ones that were simply fun to watch.
By following along as characters displays these traits, Slater says you can feel uplifted, inspired, and connected. But sometimes, even the simple act of having a fun show to look forward to, at the end of a wintery day, can be a big help, too. In no particular order, here are the shows and movies that were found to
boost people's moods.
'Grace and Frankie' (Netflix)
Grace and Frankie meets Slater's criteria, as it shows characters being their authentic selves, while also overcoming challenges.
"This is a tale of opposites attracting and discovering a deep friendship," she says. "An important message here is never judge a book by its cover. The story inspires hope and possibility even in our darkest moments."
'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' (Amazon Prime)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel inspires hope, shows a character overcoming challenges. And, of course, it's super funny.
"As the central character’s perfect and [idealized] life dismantles she is challenged to reveal her true self," Slater says. "An inspiring message to live your truth as your authentic self. You are enough just as you are."
'Good Will Hunting' (Netflix)
Good Will Hunting is a moving demonstration of a relationship built on love and trust, Slater says, and also provides a great example of characters transforming and healing. It meets pretty much all of her criteria for a good movie to watch when you're down.
Another one that ticks every box is the film
About A Boy. As Slater says, it's "a tale of an individual who transforms his own life through acts of kindness towards a boy struggling to cope and searching for a safe-haven. Our relationships with others affect our relationship with ourselves." And this movie can serve as a great reminder of that. Friends is a great show to watch if you're struggling with SAD symptoms, for a variety of reasons. "This diverse group of individuals demonstrate the value of relationships by coming together to form an urban family," Slater says, "supporting and comforting one another through life’s challenges." Watch it with your own friends, and reap all sorts of benefits.
"Living up to expectations of who we 'should' be causes suffering and sadness when we inevitably fail to be perfect," Slater says. But
Dumplin' serves as a reminder that it's more important to be true to yourself.
'Legally Blonde' (Netflix)
Legally Blonde is not only a fun, lighthearted movie to watch when you're down, but also one that's surprisingly inspiring. "Never judge a book by its cover," Slater says. "Despite a life of privilege, Elle Woods experiences, and overcomes, a lack of meaning because she isn’t seen for who she truly is."
'Love And Other Drugs' (Amazon Prime)
This movie shows the importance of being authentic, real, and vulnerable. And who couldn't use a little reminder like that?
"We don’t need to hide our flaws, imperfections, or illness — we are good enough and deserving of love just as we are," Slater says.
'Catastrophe' (Amazon Prime)
Catastrophe is "an acute observation of what intimacy, trust, and loyalty mean in a relationship," Slater says. "We aren’t perfect and don’t always get it right." And that's OK. Watching this one may provide the boost you need.
'The Good Place' (Netflix)
This show is funny, and is an "entertaining example of reflecting on our relationship with ourselves," Slater says. "A group of vastly different characters who are limited in their social groups because they are considered outsiders and misfits, join together to make themselves better people."
Queer Eye is so much fun. But at its core "is a big-hearted approach towards those who feel lost and low in confidence," Slater says. "It demonstrates a fundamental truth — we all live more productively when we feel seen, valued, and deserving of spending time on ourselves." If you need a reminder of that, give it a watch.
'Sex Education' (Netflix)
Funny, inspiring, and uplifting,
Sex Education is a depiction of the messiness that is life, in the form of a Netflix series. "It demonstrates our capacity for heartfelt empathy in moments of excruciating vulnerability," Slater says.
'Modern Family' (Amazon Prime)
As Slater says,
Modern Family is a celebration of diverse family life and overcoming the trials and tribulations of modern living. It challenges stereotypes and offers us all a chance to normalize our own experiences, which can be quite uplifting.
'Pitch Perfect' (Netflix)
As if a snazzy acapella group wouldn't lift your mood all on its own,
Pitch Perfect also checks other boxes, as it shows folks being true to themselves, conquering challenges, sticking together, "and ultimately belonging," Slater says.
'The Big Bang Theory' (Netflix)
If you're looking for a lighthearted show to boost your mood,
The Big Bang Theory might be a good choice, as Slater says it's about a group of talented outsiders who are struggling to fit in. It can be relatable in that way, and even inspiring if you're feeling isolated, or as if you don't belong.
Because these shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime are funny, inspiring, and show characters overcoming obstacles, watching them can prove to be quite uplifting, if you're feeling down. While they won't cure SAD all on their own, including them as part of your daily or weekly routine can be a fun and comforting way to
get through the winter.