They used to call it “Cabin Fever,” defined as “irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation.” As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, most of us are spending prolonged periods of time in our homes, and looking for diversions. As your friendly neighborhood therapist – and fellow movie lover – I know that many are turning to the familiar comforts of television, movies, and streaming media rather than going out either due to lack of options (as many outside diversions are closed) or due to health concerns.
Movies are a familiar comfort we can enjoy in the comfort of our homes. They take us to other places and provide entertainment, education or inspiration. So, if you are going to watch a film – make it an event! Get out the popcorn, dim the lights, and agree on a film that everyone can enjoy. Use your screen to connect, rather than to isolate.
Here are some personal favorites that might provide some inspiration and enjoyment during this uncertain time:
- The Martian (2015): Starring Matt Damon and featuring Jessica Chastain, this film features a (thoroughly researched) mission to Mars set in the near future. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that Matt Damon’s astronaut character is left on the planet and has to survive in very challenging conditions. His character’s ingenuity, humor, and resilience is realistically portrayed and is very inspiring. Also, the science is very cool if you like that stuff (I do). Highly recommended. There is some profanity, just FYI.
- Happy (2011): This is a documentary that asks the question “What makes people Happy?” from every angle you can imagine. The film features top positive psychology researchers as well as people from all over the world, in different situations. From surfers and musicians, to a rickshaw driver and his family in India, to a woman who overcame a tragic automobile accident in Texas to find joy once again. There is something in this film for everyone, as we all can improve our potential for happiness, and it turns out that being happy is a fascinating subject to learn more about.
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019): This “based on a true story” movie features a reporter who is tasked to interview Mister Rogers (played by Tom Hanks), the famous kindly children’s show host. The reporter, who is cynical, hard-bitten, and known for finding dirt on famous people, decides to do the same to Fred Rogers, only to find that this man is just as good and kind as he appears – and his life is transformed along the way. Mister Rogers was an amazing human being, and Tom Hanks does a great job with the role. Check it out.
- Our Planet (Netflix Series-2019): This is a nature documentary, and a recent one, but really any will do. Viewing the wonder of nature has a healing effect on me, personally. I prefer the real thing, but this will do in a pinch. Sometimes, when seeing the vast splendor of nature, our own difficulties don’t seem so troublesome.
- My Cousin Vinny (1992): I’m probably dating myself with this movie, but I’m putting it in here for only one reason – the healing power of laughter. Vinny (played by Joe Pesci) is an attorney from “New Yawk” who is trying to free a relative falsely accused of murder in Mississippi. Although he faces adversity down South, most of the people he meets are well-intentioned. This is a “fish out of water” story, with a great supporting role by Marisa Tomei. You’ve probably seen it before, I’ve seen it at least three or four times, but it always makes me laugh. Laughter helps us heal, and bolsters our resilience. Try this one, or another comedy favorite, with your loved ones. Also, again, some profanity to be warned of.
But Don’t Over Do it!
There are seemingly infinite choices of ways to enjoy our screens these days but, like any other tool, they can be overused. Don’t overdo it! Go out for a walk. Do some jumping jacks. Do a crossword puzzle. I’ve got some ideas for you in this regard as well. But, that will be for another article…. Until next time, be healthy, and be well!
-Robert Carter, MS, LPC, CADC