Finding Solace on the Silver Screen: How Films Can Help Relieve Stress

Life today is busier and more stressful than ever before. Long work hours, financial worries, health issues, relationship problems – the list goes on. With so many responsibilities and pressures burdening our minds, it’s no wonder rates of stress and anxiety are at all-time highs. When we feel this overwhelmed, taking time for self-care is crucial. While practices like meditation, exercise, and talking to friends are popular destressing techniques, one appealing option that shouldn’t be overlooked is watching films.

Movies have long served as a source of inspiration, joy, and comfort. Consider classics like It’s a Wonderful Life that fill viewers with hope or family films like Frozen that envelop audiences in delightful song and cheer. Even serious dramas and thought-provoking documentaries can provide viewers with perspective, helping them see their troubles aren’t so bad or teaching that issues can be overcome with perseverance.

In today’s on-demand environment, films are more accessible than ever via streaming services that allow you to easily queue up a movie on any device, whenever you want and wherever you are. Taking just 90-120 minutes to engross yourself in a film gives your mind a chance to temporarily escape – escaping from draining work projects, tense interpersonal conflicts, or whatever happens to be weighing you down that day. This short mental vacation helps hit the reset button, so you return to your real life feeling a little more refreshed and prepared to carry on.

Beyond providing a timely diversion for our minds, researchers have identified other factors that contribute to films having a uniquely positive impact on reducing stress. The audiovisual nature of movies fully engages both sides of the brain, producing a deeper level of focus that pulls our attention away from rumination and worry. The narratives depicted also often resonate emotionally, releasing feel-good neurochemicals like oxytocin and dopamine. And the activity of viewing a story unfold spikes levels of cortisol in the short-term, which can actually make us more alert and energetic.

Another perk of tapping into film to unwind is that you can easily tailor your viewing selection to what will best alleviate your current stresses. For example:

  • After a brutally busy week at the office, opt for a lighthearted comedy you can enjoy with low brain power like Raising Arizona or Coming to America. Let the hilarious hijinks make your cares fade away.
  • Following an argument with your partner, go for a romance like Before Sunrise that will remind you of the wonder of human connection and rekindle optimism about relationships.
  • To process worries about an upcoming life change, check out transitional tales that share the struggles and triumphs of reinvention like How Stella Got Her Groove Back or Eat Pray Love. You’ll glean insight and inspiration.
  • When coping with grief or loss, watch dramas with similar characters for cathartic effect such as Ordinary People or Manchester by the Sea. The empathy and emotional release can aid healing.

Movies represent a diverse spectrum of stories that speak uniquely to the human experience. Simply set aside downtime, decide what type of film fits your mood, cue it up, and let the flick work its magic. Walking alongside compelling characters and compelling narratives has a way of lifting our spirits and lightening our load. And relieving stress a little is a beautiful use of time that allows us to refresh, refocus, and keep persevering through whatever stressful scenario we face. So next time you feel the tension mounting, do your mind and body a favor by finding solace on the silver screen.