How to stop binge watching from ruining your life

Breaking the habit

If you want to cut down on the number of episodes you watch in one sitting, my golden rule is to stop watching mid-way through an episode. It’s really hard to stop watching at the end of an episode as so often the show ends with a cliff-hanger.

I also suggest setting realistic daily limits. For me, it’s 2.5 hours if I have work the next day, or up to five hours if I don’t. And only start watching as a reward to yourself after you’ve done everything you need to in terms of work and social obligations.

Remember, the difference between a healthy enthusiasm and an addiction is that the former adds to your life, whereas the latter detracts from it. If you feel binge-watching is taking over your life, you should seek a referral from your GP to see a clinical psychologist. Most addictions are symptomatic of other underlying problems.

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When Does Binge-Watching Become an Addiction?

According to the list of disorders found in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, binge-watching cannot officially be classified as an addiction. That said, it’s undeniable that there’s still a huge problem to be addressed here, as excessive TV viewership can have serious effects on the brain.

Addictive tendencies can arise when you experience psychological or physical harm as a result of watching TV and you still find it challenging to stop. In addition, if you are experiencing what is known as binge-watching depression (a down feeling that comes with binge-watching), then you are probably addicted to TV.

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.

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.

Storytelling is a vital human tradition

The desire to binge stories is also part of what makes us human. We love stories. We’re attracted to them. And today streaming is often defined by superb production and masterful storytelling (for example, Peaky Blinders, Game of Thrones, Succession). Indulging in this modern storytelling, then, is a normal fascination. Over half of Americans reported binging, as of 2017.

“I imagine binge-watching is only a technologically enhanced version of a behavior that has been around, at least in rudimentary form, for at least 50,000 years,” Joseph Carroll, a literature professor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and editor in chief of the academic journal Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture, told Mashable in 2019.

“I imagine binge-watching is only a technologically enhanced version of a behavior that has been around, at least in rudimentary form, for at least 50,000 years.”

Hundreds of years before streaming was born, epic stories like the Iliad and Odyssey and Beowulf must have entranced listeners, perhaps in great, firelit halls. “The bards chanting such tales must have sung for many hours to halls full of warriors deep in their cups but still entranced by the singers’ words,” mused Carroll.

Often, people today watch fictional TV or binge at night. This is when earlier hunter-gatherer societies, too, would likely immerse themselves in storytelling and delve into the supernatural (as modern streamed series often do), as opposed to chatting about work and trivialities of the day. The anthropologist Polly Wiessner observed the firelit stories still told by Southern Africa’s Kalahari Bushmen (a semi-nomadic tribal culture) today.

“At night, people really let go, mellow out, and seek entertainment,” Wiessner said in 2014. “Night conversation has more to do with stories, talking about the characteristics of people who are not present and who are in your broader networks, and thoughts about the spirit world and how it influences the human world,” she added.

Our evening binge-watching (and reading) habits make sense. 

“We’re wired to attend to these fictional stories as winding down the day or getting ready for bed,” said Ellithorpe.

How to Stop Binge-Watching Netflix Step by Step

Let’s take a look at how you could stop binge-watching Netflix based on the studies and research we’ve gone through above, step by step.

Step 1.1: Delete Your Netflix Account & Apps

The first step you’ll want to take if you’re going to quit Netflix entirely is to delete your Netflix account and all the apps from your phone and other devices.

This is going to be the first step towards stopping binge-watching Netflix completely. Now, if you still want to watch some Netflix shows occasionally, then you might want to skip this step and instead focus on blocking your access during specific times of the day.

You can also try out a 90-day detox, which is highly effective for stopping a gaming addiction and proving to be highly effective for Netflix addiction.

Step 1.2: Disable Internet Access & Notifications

If you’ve decided to skip the first step, then this is where you can start your journey towards stopping binge-watching Netflix. 

You might still want to watch some shows, but you want to watch them in more moderation than before. If that’s the case, you’ll need to use reactive self-control methods, but know that this can be more ineffective than using a more proactive approach.

Here are some things that you can try in this step:

  • Turn off all Netflix notifications on your phone
  • Turn off Netflix autoplay
  • Set a daily time limit as to how long you can watch Netflix
  • Use an internet or app blocker that will disable your access to Netflix after a certain period
  • Consider using airplane mode if you use your phone for watching Netflix

Step 2: Prioritize Other Tasks Over Netflix

If you’ve been binge-watching Netflix for some time now, then you know that Netflix can eat up your valuable time that you’d otherwise use for doing other, more meaningful tasks.

A good form of self-control is to prioritize other tasks instead of watching Netflix. Then, once you have finished your tasks, you can watch Netflix without so much stress. Be sure to set a limit of how long you will watch for and stick to it.

It is essential that you keep a good balance between life and tech, so making sure that you complete your work or other tasks before watching Netflix is crucial.

Once you start watching Netflix, you fall into your comfort zone where you start to accept you’re going to binge-watch and that you’ll complete your tasks tomorrow/after. It’s best not to go down that already beaten path again because you know it’s not good for you!

Step 3: Find Out Why You Binge-Watch Netflix & Find Replacement Activities

You’ll want to find out why you watch Netflix so much, and then you’ll want to find activities that address those needs and do them instead of watching Netflix.

The most common reasons for binge-watching Netflix include:

  • Boredom
  • Escapism
  • Entertainment
  • Fear of missing out (FOMO)

You should aim to replace binge-watching Netflix with other activities that address the exact needs.

If you need a form of entertainment before you go to sleep, for example, you could try reading a book instead of binge-watching Netflix. 

If you’re looking for escapism, try a new hobby like writing, painting, listening to podcasts, or learning a new language. The possibilities are endless.

The key to overcoming your Netflix addiction is in creating long-term, better habits

You can still use in-the-moment methods to your binges, but these are not always going to be sustainable long-term. For long-term solutions, then you will need to build better habits and a more sustainable lifestyle.

The generation divide isn’t as wide as you might think

Foto:           It's not just young people that ar

Foto: It’s not just young people that are doing it either. source MaxPixel

Binge-watching could be considered a young person problem, since younger people may be more in tune with new ways to consume media. However, Oexman said that the habit is actually increasing across the board.

“It’s not only young people who are binge watching – we’re starting to see it creep up into the older population too,” he said.

“The danger with that is that young people recover easier, but they also just in general sleep better than an older population. I would predict that if this study was done on people who were age 55 to 70, then what we would see is even poorer quality of sleep associated with binge-watching.”

Also, the generation the study looked at will get older one day too, and if they continue to binge-watch the problems associated could become more and more apparent.

“People don’t necessarily see the problem with what they’re doing,” Oexman said. “They see it as a temporary thing, they can stop off at Starbucks get a coffee and I’ll be okay. But it’s not. The health consequences go on and on.”