Don’t be ashamed of your trashy TV

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There are a million things to do with your time, yet you find yourself watching a show that makes you feel like you’re losing brain cells. Don’t beat yourself up, though—watching “bad” TV is actually worth your while.

According to media psychologist Stuart Fischoff, Ph.D, “it’s ‘bad’ TV if it makes you dumber,” while good TV challenges you to broaden your horizons. Sorry, but Tosh.0 and The Bachelor are not the latter.

That’s not to say you can’t learn from “bad” shows though. Sitcoms and reality shows may be set in situations very different from ours, but the core lessons can still pull through. Seeing family members reconcile or seeing silly romantic mistakes on-screen provides information to learn from.

A psychological concept called the social comparison theory refers to how humans determine their own value by comparing themselves to others. This works in two ways: seeing Kim K cry on Keeping up with the Kardashians may make you feel superior, but seeing Marshall’s strong family connections on How I Met Your Mother may make you feel like you’re missing something.

Either way, you’re now thinking about parts of your life that either make you proud or that need work.

The downtime watching “bad TV” is actually allowing your mind to take some time off to churn over problems, so when you face those problems again, you’re ready to take them on.

Yes, too much of this “down-time” would be more distracting than helpful, but any pass-time can take over if you let it. And yes, of course “good” TV shows are still worth watching, but watching something complicated like House of Cards makes me stressed and confused—and hey, I’ve got my own problems to deal with.

So ditch your ego and watch a show with low ratings and an enthusiastic fanbase. These shows let you unwind, sort out a few things in your mind, and maybe even enjoy yourself.