College of Education Self-Care

  • Participants at the self-care drum session
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Self-care at the movies

March 28, 2022

Dear COE Community,

Can watching a movie be a beneficial type of self-care? A study conducted by researchers at University College London and Vue Cinema found that people who watched movies experienced improved mental focus and fixation towards the movie. This focused watching (according to the study) helps to improve cognition and memory.  And even better, movies provide us a window into what now is and what can be. Last weekend, the Oscars provided us with many great movies that give opportunities to empathize with others. The awards ceremony also provided first time examples of what we wish to always see-movies that celebrate deaf culture, honor women directors, and recognize excellence in diversity within the movie industry. An article in The Bridge Chronicle has identified additional psychological benefits of watching movies as a form of self-care:

Watching movies makes you more empathetic and strengthen relationships:

Have you ever felt a character in a film was exactly like you or very similar to you? Maybe it is something about their personality or the portrayal of a character. However, this association also impacts individuals on an emotional level. Studies suggest that watching movies can increase our emotional intelligence and also help in improving social connectivity. A study conducted by psychologists at Oklahoma University studied the relation between fictional drama and emotions. For the purpose of the study, the subjects were divided into two groups. One group was shown fictional dramas or documentaries. While the other group was asked to either watch documentaries or nothing at all. These groups then underwent reading the eyes in the mind test. According to the results of the test, researchers found a consistency in the feelings of the participants who watched the fictional drama.

Movies can boost mood and improve mental health:

Imagine you have had a really hard day at work, and are trying hard to take your mind off a few things. But the problem is that your mind keeps going back to worrying about work. How do you fix it? Watch a movie or Netflix maybe? Psychological research and therapeutic practitioners verify that watching movies is one of the best ways to deal with anxiety or depression. Dr Noah Uhrig, a group leader of a study on similar lines says, "The cinema is a form of social participation with strong egalitarian properties. The costs of attending the cinema are less prohibitive than other forms of cultural consumption such as the symphony, the ballet or the opera. At the same time, cinema attendance is not a wholly low-brow activity as it is also an integral component of an omnivorous leisure portfolio, i.e., those that attend higher cultural activities also attend the cinema."

Sad films can make us happy: It is similar to the effect that sad songs have on our mood, they uplift us and make us feel lighter. Sad music resonates with our feelings helping us find an outlet for them. Similarly, sad movies help us find an outlet for our feelings hence making us feel less sad. However, there hasn't been any study on the same, but studies on the effect of sad music in uplifting moods in people help understand the phenomenon better.

Whether it is thriller, drama, horror or romance — whichever genre that you prefer, now there is proof that movies don't only entertain you but also help your mental wellbeing.

To read more, go to

For a list of other self-care options for spring break 2021, please see our COE self-care website for resources for faculty, staff, students, and the community at:

This week, enjoy a movie and the many benefits this experience can have!