3 Tips for Watching Films When Living with Depression / by Sian Parker

When at my lowest point of living with depression, I found it near impossible to watch and focus on anything. There was so much going on in my mind that my concentration had disintegrated, and I found I had little to no interest in almost everything... Despite so desperately wanting to be invested.

This would be especially noticeable when it came to watching films. I would put one on, it would play and finish, but I would not be able to recall 90% of it. Although I was struggling with my memory too, I would usually end up scrolling through social media on my phone, or become so fixated on the time and it passing, that actually watching the film became my last priority. It was tiring.

At the time, I was in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. In those sessions I discussed my inability but wish to be able to watch films again. Below are the tips developed from the conversations I had with my then therapist, and what I have found to help me enjoy movies once more!

Watch Short Films

Requiring less of my attention span, I found it far easier to sit and watch a short film or two, rather than a two hour long epic. Short films have as much, if not more, artistic substance and care put into them than feature length movies; it is just all condensed down into a more manageable time.

I have also found their varying length to be great way to gradually increase time spent watching, depending on how long I felt able to sit for. With a host of genres and themes available, there are plenty to choose from too - so take note of how you're feeling and watch accordingly.

There are tons of short films to be found on YouTube, but Short of the Week is a great resource too.

Schedule Intervals

This idea was pinched from my then therapist. When I expressed my disappointment in being unable to sit through a film, they pointed out that I didn't have to watch it all in one go... Once they said this, it seemed so obvious! Why hadn't I thought of this before?!

Whether it be a five to ten minute break in the middle, a few sprinkled throughout, or even choosing to spread the film out over a day or so, it is about finding what works for you in that moment. There is no need to watch the whole thing at once.

I try to think about it like reading a book. Watching a film is not a race or competition, but instead something to be savoured and enjoyed.

Remove Distractions

This can be really difficult when enduring the lowest points of depression. They say a tidy space equals a tidy mind, but I know how hard I found it to keep my space tidy - and still do at particularly stressful times.

If you can move to a tidy space that is great, but if that is not available to you, just placing phones out of reach or ticking clocks in cupboards can be enough to alleviate feeling scattered - or as though there is too much going on at once. 

Other tips include grabbing drinks and snacks before the movie begins, and opting to watch a film on or through your TV rather than laptop. This can also help eliminate the temptation to see how much you have watched, how long is left, or to 'quickly' check Twitter/Facebook/YouTube, but then accidentally fall down a social media hole instead...


This piece was written by A Film Club Creator, Sian. If you have any tips for watching films when living with depression, tweet them to us at @afilmclub or share them via the #afilmclub hashtag!