Mental Health and Film: the healing power of watching and discussing cinema

Disclaimer: A lot of what I’m about to discuss is very personal and upsetting, so just keep that in mind when you read this. I figured that if I was going to do a piece about mental health, I should be honest with you all.

I am also not a medical or psychological professional, so anything discussed here is purely my own experience and is not genuine medical advice. I am not suggesting you replace prescribed medication or therapy with the methods outlined below.

If you are concerned about your own mental health, please get in touch with a GP or visit Mind to find legitimate support.

Mental health is incredibly complex, and for a lot of society, there’s sadly a lot of ignorance when it comes to it. Too often depression is written off as ‘being a bit sad’, and anxiety is written off as ‘being a bit shy’. In reality they’re both debilitating conditions that have prevented me from doing a lot in my life such as attending certain social events.

At my worst, I would make up excuses and cancel on people pretending I had something else going on, when in reality I just wanted to lie down on my own and ignore the world. The saddest thing is, I’d spend the rest of the day wishing I’d gone, and you just end up going round in circles arguing with yourself.

Over the past few months I’ve started to improve, but some days I don’t want to get out of bed and other days I want to burst into tears after a social interaction because I’m scared I may have ’embarrassed myself’. I have to find a way to calm myself down before I can rationalise my thoughts, and convince myself that I didn’t do anything wrong.

I frequently find myself overwhelmed, and have a bad habit of not allowing myself to switch off, which only exacerbates the problem. Constantly being ‘switched on’ is not a lot of fun for the brain as you become very stressed and agitated.

The only time I really allow myself the luxury of switching off is when I watch films or TV shows. Obviously, I don’t check my phone during film screenings so I’m given up to three hours of pure escapism, something I don’t have when I’m at home. As much as it pains me to say it, I find myself reaching for my phone way more than I should. This is something I’m trying to work on too.

I have started making a proper effort to do this at home too, so I leave my phone in the other room or have it faced down. That way, I’m not giving in to distraction when I decide to stick Netflix on. It’s a lovely thing to do with my boyfriend after a long day.

Being in a darkened room that forces you to put away your gadgets and focus is a blessing, and part of the reason I am so in love with cinema. During your time watching a film, nothing else matters but what’s right in front of you. You’re in a new world, you’re invested in characters, and you’re transported. It’s a really beautiful thing.

Another thing that’s so great about film is the community, and I feel much more at ease speaking with likeminded people because I have something I can contribute, rather than just making small talk or pretending I know anything about the latest reality TV series or football match.

Slowly, I’ve found myself able to reach out to new people and even organise an amazing film meetup. I would never have had the confidence to do that a few years ago, out of fear no one would show up.

Thank you, lovely people!

Finding people with the same unwavering passion(s) as you is so lovely, and it does wonders for you psychologically. I am grateful to be so welcomed into a community who cares about what I have to say, and constantly inspires me with great content and discussions!

Of course, there are bad bits too, as you can come across very negative people or those who want to bring you down just because they can. It’s difficult to deal with sometimes, but 90% of the community are supportive and kind. They help you through the bad days. I’m going to write a piece about dealing with rejection and/or negativity in the near future.

It’s definitely the act of film watching that helps me to breathe, slow down, and process, but the discussions are equally as important too. For most of us cinephiles, we find ourselves leaving the cinema with so much to talk about, and we don’t want to waste that on someone who doesn’t care.

There’s no overnight cure or ‘quick fix’ when it comes to mental health, but surrounding yourself with people and things that you’re passionate about a great way to make your head happier. No matter what interest you have, there’ll be hundreds of people who enjoy it too. Reach out to them, revel in the beauty of your hobby, and cut toxic people out your life.

With that in mind, it’s also okay to step back from the community if you ever need it, and enjoy solitude. I’ve also written a piece about why going to the cinema alone is a good thing, and I’ll always stand by my view on this.

Putting pressure on yourself to always tweet at a certain time or to always post without fail can be damaging, so don’t beat yourself up if you have to switch your schedule around sometimes. A blog post, video or podcast is not worth risking your mental health.

There’s a whole world of cinema out there waiting for you, whether you want to be comforted, have a good cry, or scream. Whatever your mood, films can be a cathartic experience and help you get through tough times. You know your brain better than anyone, so you’ll know whether a Disney film or a classic horror will make you feel better.

Either way, it’s a wonderful thing.

Which films do you watch on a bad day? Let me know your choices!

4 thoughts on “Mental Health and Film: the healing power of watching and discussing cinema

  1. What a lovely post! I have the exact same problem, and it’s the reason why I force myself to watch more movies in the cinema rather than at home. There are some movies that I know I would have enjoyed more in the cinema just because I know I would have paid more attention to it.

    As for a movie I watch when I have a bad day, I either go for a Disney classic (usually Beauty and the Beast or Hercules), or La La Land. There is nothing like a happy musical number to cheer me up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such as a good post and so relevant to me. I suffer from a social anxiety disorder and spend much of my waking (and sleeping!) time worrying about things that are coming up or going over something that happened.

    I go to the cinema about twice a week (I saw film number 48 on Sunday – Support the Girls – highly recommended) and in the vast majority of cases, it completely clears my mind of worry and anxiety for those couple of hours I’m in there. Like you, I find it much more difficult to get that same sense at home, so much prefer the darkness and quiet of the cinema.

    I only recently recognised how helpful this was to me, but it completely makes sense. I’m lucky to have a love of film that provides that sense of escapism.

    Thanks for being so open – it’s good to know others find peace in the cinema.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lots of praise and respect to you for posting your thoughts on social anxiety. I’m sure that wasn’t easy but I’m glad you did because it may help others as well.

    Whenever I go to festivals or conventions. I have the additude that everyone hates me and so I do kind of put a slight wall in front of me to say to others nothing you say will ever hurt me. I’m working on changing that. I like your idea of a film meet up. I’m going to try and do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful article and one that really resonated with me. I realise I have been using film and tv to deal with a lot of issues as I’ve always seen them as my comfort space. I am a huge advocate of solo cinema going, it is such a wonderful experience, plus my wife and I have different tastes so it works for us. To answer your question, I don’t really have a go to film but do always take my birthday off work to spend the day watching 3 or 4 of my favourite movies. Always feel revitalised afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

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