A feel-good watchlist for when you're feeling anxious
Will it be a good laugh, escapism or nostalgia for you?
Life has thrown us so many curve balls lately that we’ve had little choice but to adapt and learn to bend it like Beckham. For some people that meant diving headfirst into work, picking up new hobbies and experimenting with their workout regime. Others chose to slow their pace, find time for self-care rituals, meditation and a good book. Though there’s one thing we have in common – seeking comfort in rewatching films and TV shows that we love.
2020 was hailed “the year of the rewatch” with The Office, New Girl and The Sopranos among the most streamed programmes, despite new content still dropping on OTT platforms. At a time filled with uncertainty, change and a complete lack of control, we sought comfort and familiarity in our streaming habits.
Researchers have been studying why we often hit play on our feel-good watchlist filled with old shows and films. “It can become really therapeutic, especially if you are feeling anxious. Watching the same piece multiple times reaffirms that there’s order in the world and that it can create a sense of safety and comfort on a primal level,” said psychologist Pamela Rutledge.
When our brain is overloaded with new information that it’s trying to process – new guidelines, travel restrictions, sanitisation practices, vaccination schedules and WFH rules – we want to switch off and rely on something tried and tested to watch.
“Under a heavy cognitive load, we might turn to shows we’ve already seen and loved instead of new ones so that we don’t have to pile anything else onto our mental plates,” writes Dr Jennifer Fayard, associate professor of psychology, Ouachita Baptist University.
We love watching horror and true crime as much as anyone. While mentally, we may be able to disconnect fact from fiction, what’s happening on our screens from what’s happening in our lives, our body may not always feel the same way. Our body goes through all the same stress responses as it would on a thrilling rollercoaster ride. And Rutledge adds that it can be disruptive to our sleep as our brain continues to process the images we’ve seen and then bring those back up in our dreams.
Experts suggest we opt for four types of content if we’re trying to seek comfort in a feel-good watchlist. Light-hearted plotlines that we know end with a resolution and avoid uncertainty. Something where the main characters are shown to overcome obstacles and triumph, where we can step into their shoes and feel the same joy. A show or film where we can completely disconnect and lose ourselves in a fantasy world far removed from reality. Or dip into the warmth and comfort of nostalgia. You could always rewatch Schitt’s Creek for the sixth time, right?
As we enter season 3 of the pandemic, choosing what to watch in itself can be anxiety-inducing. So we scrolled through OTT platforms and curated a list for you, depending on what you’re looking for.
Feel-good watchlist for when you’re feeling anxious
For when you need a bit of motivation and the emotional mush of an Adele and Arijit Singh song.
The latest season of Queer Eye just dropped and the Fab 5 do not disappoint as they put on their cowboy boots and hit Austin, Texas for some life-changing makeovers.
The light-hearted show shows us how beautiful connections can be made with people when you step into the arena with open hearts and minds. Each of the Fab 5 members brings something special to the table that encourages and uplifts their hero of the week.
It seems like they’re just giving this person a new hairstyle, living room or outfit to wear but about showing empathy when people are open about their vulnerabilities and encouraging them to embrace themselves.
This show will also give you a good cry if you need a sweet release.
For when you want to escape reality and immerse yourself in a fantasy world.
We don’t believe that denial is the way to go to cope with the anxiety brewing in your chest, but people need a break every once in a while and escape from the drudgery of existence. The Wheel of Time will help you leave the real world behind for a momentary escape.
Based on Robert Jordan’s fantasy novel series of the same name, the world you’ll step into is a magical one. But not everyone is allowed to harness it. Our journey here starts when a mysterious and magical woman Moiraine (played by Rosamund Pike) arrives at a small village and saves five young men and women from an attack.
Watch along as we learn of a prophesied hero/heroine, magical powers and beings and watch the fight unfold between Darkness and Light.
For a big dose of nostalgia and feel-good fun.
The show first hit TV airwaves in 1995 and still has such a stronghold on our hearts. The comedic dynamics and shenanigans of Anand Mathur and his family always serve as a trip down memory lane and a break from our daily anxieties.
Watch TV favourites Ashok Saraf, Shoma Anand and the late Jatin Kanakia along with a very young Vidya Balan playing one of the five daughters constantly pranking and troubling their father. All in good, light-hearted fun.
It is hard to pick a favourite character from such a great ensemble cast but it’ll have to be Anand’s late first wife whose character exists as a talking portrait routinely jibing and troubling him.
For when you’re looking for a real story so wild that you forget about everything going on in your own life.
It started with a tweet. Then it became a 148-tweet viral thread where Aziah ‘Zola’ King posted about a wild and almost unbelievable trip she took to Florida with a stripper friend she made named Jessica.
It’s a tale of deception, murder, attempted murder, suicide and prostitution. Change a few names around and that’s the story we get to witness in action in the film Zola, based on King’s viral thread.
A part-time exotic dancer herself, Zola is convinced to travel with Stefani, as she is named in the film, to Tampa, Florida, to dance at a club under the guise of making a lot of quick cash in one night. They’re accompanied by X, her roommate, and Derrek, Stefani’s meek boyfriend.
Zola is duped by Stefani into joining what is essentially a prostitution racket, but the way that events unfold after this discovery for Zola is absolutely wild.
If you want to read the unabridged version of the thread before diving into the film you can check it out here.
For when you’re missing office life and the thought of unending WFH stresses you out.
We can never get enough of The Office, though now and then we also feel like a bit of a change. If you’re looking for a workplace comedy to remind you of the clowns in your own office then Superstore is what you want to put on.
It follows an ensemble of employees working at mega-store Cloud 9 and their daily struggles and antics interacting with each other and their customers.
You’ll notice parallels in the show from your own work-life – a difficult coworker, customers who don’t listen or a boss who is not responding well to something you asked – but atleast here you can get a resolution and some respite, even if in real-life you haven’t had the chance.
When you need to feel safe watching good triumph over evil.
We love you Krrish but director Basil Joseph has given us Minnal Murali, the Indian superhero we need.
Tovino Thomas plays Jaison, a tailor with big ambitions but little luck. The woman he loves gets engaged to someone else and his dream of travelling to the US are quashed by vengeful cops. But during a once-in-a-lifetime cosmic event, Jaison is struck by lightning and day by day he starts to change.
He’s got his nephew by his side, helping him discover his new powers. But Jaison wasn’t the only one to be struck by lightning that night. Shibu took a hit too.
You get some laughs as Jaison’s tormenters get their comeuppance, but there are also moments of deep sadness. We see the build-up of a worthy antihero to Minnal Murali, at times you’re almost rooting for the person who is supposed to technically be the bad guy.
No one is born essentially good or bad, it is our deeds that define us, but what drives us to them? The film leaves you thinking of how grave circumstances change people. But even if you don’t want to think too much into it, you get an entertaining watch of a superhero showdown as Jaison fights the good fight. Guru Somasundaram is phenomenal as Shibu. We recommend watching it in the original Malayalam language with subtitles on.
For when you’re itching to get out of the house but the anxiety of the outside unknown is too much.
Reintroduce yourself to the OG travel and food influencer. In each episode, the late, great Anthony Bourdain travels to different cities around the world and immerses himself in the local culture and cuisine.
From the fanciest of restaurants to roadside shacks, nothing is off the menu for Bourdain. Live vicariously through his travels around the world, the friendships he makes and the culture you’ve been wanting to explore.
Sure, you can’t feel the sea breeze blowing through your hair or the spicy ramen bowl he’s chowing down on. But considering Japan’s got a lickable TV screen that lets you taste food flavours, that day might not be too far away.
If you’re in dire need of a dose of laughter therapy.
There’s mystery, intrigue and some gruesome death in this film But, it’s done with such comedic ease that it’s hilarious to watch. That sounds like an oxymoron but this dark comedy by the team behind cult classic Shaun of the Dead makes this another all-time favourite.
Simon Pegg plays a supercop transferred to a small sleepy village. He’s teamed up with Danny Butterman, played by Nick Frost, to solve a series of murders that seems so unlikely in a place that’s the regular winner of ‘Village of the Year’. We’re huge Edgar Wright fans who directed and co-wrote this with Pegg.
You will love this
For when you need the warmth and charm of a feel-good rom-com.
Hugh Grant practically made the rom-com genre. Sure, Notting Hill is great. But there’s something about him gyrating and singing Pop Goes My Heart that makes you want to dance along.
He plays Alex Fletcher, a former 80s pop star bordering on being a has-been. He enlists the help of Sophie (Drew Barrymore), a lady he hired to water his plants, to help him write the lyrics for the comeback he’s trying to make. Creating music together, they start to fall for each other. Then, of course, come the complications.
Watch it for Grant’s quintessential theatricality, dialogue delivery and of course, accent. Barrymore is her lovely self in this charming rom-com and you can’t help but smile every time she does.
For when you need help processing grief and taking a trip down memory lane.
Some people have a tainted view of teen dramas and films, but we believe among them lie a few gems that stand out, like Mixtape.
Set in 1999, the story is of middle schooler Beverly Moody. She lost her parents in a car accident when she was only 2 and lives with her strict maternal grandmother. She gets bullied at school and is a lonely kid. Her grandmother Gail doesn’t like talking about the loss of her daughter. One day Beverly finds an old mixtape that belonged to her parents. Thinking of it as a way to connect and get to know them she pops it into her walkman (remember those?) but it gets eaten up and destroyed.
She embarks on a journey to track down all the songs from the tape’s song list and remake the cassette in the same way. Each song teaches her something new about her parents and their relationship, helping her feel closer to them. She meets new people, makes new friends in this musical self-discovery.
If you want to see someone fight the good fight in an apocalypse, and get in a few laughs as well.
A zombie-apocalypse-action-comedy film that people love to hate and hate to love. There’s loud slapstick humour, gun-toting action and, well, zombies. Our heroes are a trio of friends who head to Goa, but after a rave party on an island get stranded there. Worse, the next day they realise that an experimental drug has turned everyone else into zombies and this has become a fight for survival.
Saif Ali Khan is the highlight of this film with his blonde hair and very on-to-nose fake Russian accent. He plays a Russian mafia boss who comes to their aid. There’s not a lot you need to think about when it comes to this film, just enjoy the funny moments, cheer as people fight off a deadly virus trying to take over their lives and be entertained with a strange kind of catharsis.
If you want to satiate your wanderlust through the most hilarious of hosts.
This technically isn’t a series that you can stream in India at the moment, but see clips of it on Youtube.
Late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien travels to different countries and shows us his experience of the local culture, cuisine and customs with his quintessential wit and humour. Sometimes opting for the most bizarre of available options.
Our favourite edition of Conan Without Borders has to be his trip to South Korea. He visits a Buddhist temple featuring a lot of demons and torture, makes a guest appearance in a K-drama and tries to learn Korean with a very unhappy instructor.
If your anxiety is keeping you up at night.
This nature documentary employs the best of technology to lift the veil on the nightlife of animals.
The visuals are stunning. You get up close and personal with wildlife you’d probably never get to see in real life. Watch as they fight off predators in the moonlight, survey their territories and congregate away from the peering eyes of humans.
There’s something about watching wildlife thrive in their natural habitat that we find oddly calming. It also reminds us of the beauty that exists in the world, even on the days when everything turns into a mess.
Headspace is one of the most popular meditation apps in the world and they’ve collaborated with Netflix to create a 15-minute mindfulness exercise.
In this ‘choose your own adventure’ style video you can opt for a guided meditation to help you de-stress, sleep better and relax. You get to choose in this interactive video and at any step can restart and make different options if you feel you need a switch.
We know experts say you should avoid screen time before you go to bed to sleep better. However, we feel this makes a great relaxation exercise to ease your restless mind before you call it a day. Just a couple of clicks and once you made your choices, plug in your headphones, close your eyes, sit back and relax.