Life can be stressful. Work deadlines, financial pressures, relationship issues, health problems – the list goes on. With all these stressors, it’s important to intentionally carve out time for self-care to maintain both physical and mental health. While practices like meditation, exercise, and talking to close friends have proven stress-relieving benefits, something as simple as watching a movie can also go a long way towards giving your mind a break.
The magic of movies is that they temporarily transport us out of our own worries and frustrations and into an entirely different world. Whether it’s the fantasy land of a sci-fi epic, the musical joy of a singalong cartoon, or the high stakes drama of a thriller, a good film engages our emotions and imagination in a way that makes real-life stresses fade away, if only for a couple hours.
Comedies can be especially cathartic when you’re feeling anxious or depressed. Laughter helps release endorphins that relieve tension and improve mood. In the midst of all the bad news and seriousness of life, laughing at a silly situation in a comedy reminds us not to take things too seriously. Lighthearted movies ranging from classic films by the Marx Brothers to more recent fare like Bridesmaids or The Hangover provide funny escapism that allows the mind and body to let go.
Feel-good inspirational movies can also uplift when you’re stressed or needing motivation. Films based on real stories, like Erin Brockovich or The Pursuit of Happyness show people overcoming difficulties, against all odds, through perseverance and courage. Even fantastical tales like The Wizard of Oz or Slumdog Millionaire feature characters who must summon inner strength during their adventures. Watching them prevail despite long odds can rekindle a spark of hope and positivity when life has got you down. The right inspirational movie empowers you to confront your own challenges with renewed vigor.
Certain genres like action movies or psychological thrillers grab your attention with high stakes drama, narrow escapes, and shocking plot twists. They engage your brain’s problem-solving centers as you try to figure out “who done it” or how the hero will get out of their next predicament. This mental stimulation can provide a welcome distraction from circular worrying thoughts about your own real-life stresses. The more engrossed you get in the film, the less mental bandwidth you have left to dwell on things that are bothering you.
Beyond fun escapism and inspiration, some films tackle subject matter that helps put your own struggles in perspective. Historical dramas that depict times of war, injustice, or human suffering showcase the remarkable resilience of the human spirit during dire crises. Films addressing current social issues around inequality, discrimination, illness, and loss can help generate empathy and make your own difficulties seem more manageable by comparison.
At the same time, it’s important not to use movies as an unhealthy avoidance tactic when it comes to addressing anxiety, depression or your real-world responsibilities. Binge-watching films for hours to numb yourself is not a healthy long-term coping strategy. And consistently choosing only lightweight, low-stakes fare could inhibit personal growth. The ideal film diet includes a balance of escapist fun and deeper, more meaningful content.
There is no one-size-fits all approach when harnessing the stress-busting power of movies. Comedies tend to work well for short-term mood boosts when you’re looking for laughs rather than profound life lessons. Emotionally complex dramas may hit the spot when you have more time and headspace to be immersed in a meaningful story. Above all, choose films based your present state of mind and what you’re needing most in that moment – whether it’s an inspirational role model, a happily-ever-after ending to restore your faith in love, or explosions and car chases to distract you from your bank account balance.
The beauty of film is that the variety of genres, moods, and characters offer something for everyone when you need to destress. Watching a movie that echoes your current struggles can bring catharsis and comfort in knowing others go through similar experiences. On the other hand, nothing relieves stress better than a film that sweeps you away from all your worries and makes real life fade away, at least until the credits roll.