How movies can improve your mental wellness

December 18, 2020 | Campus Life, Society, Arts & Culture

Need a boost of bravery? Get inspired as Ben drives off zombies in Night of the Living Dead. Want to celebrate curiosity? Be more like Bambi. Going for gratitude? Watch Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson escape a cancer ward to road trip their way through The Bucket List

“When we use movies intentionally and mindfully, we can feel a sense of connection with others and with our own goals and aspirations,” says Annelise Lyseng, a counsellor at MacEwan University who teamed up with Tadiwa Nemutambwe, a fourth-year psychology student and Peer Health Education Team member, on Reel Resilience, a webinar now available on the Wellness and Psychology Services video streaming channel.

Focusing on positive psychology and character virtues, Lyseng and Nemutambwe illustrate how a slight shift in our movie-watching habits can contribute to our overall mental health. They also share their top movie picks tied to a whole range of character strengths – from resilience and gratitude to hope and humour – that can help us overcome adversity and flip the script on the challenges we face. 

Here are a few of their tips to make the most out of your next movie-watching experience: 

1. Choose carefully

Lyseng suggests thinking about what you need more of in your life. Hankering for some hope? Give Milk a watch. Need to remind yourself of your love of learning? Get inspired by the brilliance and creativity of three black female scientists who worked at NASA during the space race in Hidden Figures. Want to focus on leadership? Black Panther is perfect.

Seeing a character grapple with their issues, she explains, can help us learn something from their struggle while watching something nostalgic can help us feel comfortable and safe during times of uncertainty.

2. Check your motivation

Are you making a conscious decision to enrich your life, or are you numbing out from something? Choosing a movie to help guide and inspire you is a positive choice, says Lyseng, but pressing play to avoid an impending deadline or a difficult conversation can just lead you toward feelings of guilt or dread.

3. Make sure you’re actually watching

Rather than mindlessly scrolling through your social media feed with Scream playing in the background, make sure you’re mindful. Lyseng says that paying close attention and taking in what you’re watching means you won’t miss the lessons your favourite horror flick has to impart about the value of being prudent and cautious. Look for characters’ strengths, notice the emotions you’re feeling, and pay attention to the moments when you get the chills or warm fuzzies, she suggests.

4. Go beyond the credits

Your work isn’t finished when the credits start rolling. After the movie, take a moment to think about what resonated with you and what you can take away, suggests Lyseng. “And for bonus points, discuss your perspective on the movie with a friend to deepen your reflection and your sense of connection to others.”

We’re still here for you

Any student currently enrolled in a credit course can access free, professional telephone and video-counselling through Wellness and Psychological Services.



Changing Minds Footer Image - 3 DotsThis story is part of Changing Minds: Creating a healthy campus – an initiative that makes mental health a priority. The program connects training opportunities, support services, resources and stories from real people across the MacEwan University community.

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