Why is Friends still so popular 15 years after going off-air? In part, it’s because it literally soothes anxiety, according to one psychologist — and who doesn’t need as much stress relief as possible in 2019?
Clinical psychologist Marc Hekster tells Metro that Friends actually calms your brain, and it’s not the only one.
“Having worked for over a period of 20 years with those experiencing anxiety, 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,” Marc said.
These shows are repetitive enough that there’s no real suspense involved, yet they’re still entertaining and satisfying to watch — especially when you’ve seen them a million times already. Marc calls it the “healing nature of repetition.” It’s “soothing” to know that you can depend on the same outcome every time.
Shows like Friends are also calming because they focus on the experience of conflict resolution and repair, Marc says.
“[Watching 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,” he explained.
These episodes are “pure escapism,” he added.
So, yes, you can add Friends episodes to your anxiety toolkit, but don’t expect it to take the place of treatment. First of all, escapism isn’t the healthiest coping mechanism on its own, and second of all, it doesn’t work for severe anxiety.
“Whilst a quick fix for milder forms of anxiety, those suffering with more severe anxiety may find less solace in such programs,” Marc cautioned.