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How our favourite films can support our mental wellbeing

Shout Coach, Psychology graduate and film enthusiast James Creer explores four ways that our favourite flicks can support our mental health and wellbeing.

Films. My second home some might say, and they’d be right. I love them for so many different reasons across so many genres and, whilst personal tastes vary, there’s four things we can all get from a film we love.

1. Films can make you 'feel'

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I’m still worthy.

- Thor Odinson, Avengers: Endgame

When the world hits us with more than we can take, in that moment sometimes all we need is to get away from it all for a while.

Similarly to books, music and art, films offer us a chance to escape the reality of our world in the moment and enter a new one. To live a life we might have imagined and hoped for with our goals and the discovery of a blissful life achieved.

The happy endings most films give us after a character's trials and tribulations can bring a smile to our face, even if we wouldn’t feel like it outside of that moment. Or maybe you’re into genres like horror and what the journey of survival brings up for those unlucky souls makes you feel something after being numb from feeling everything.

Whatever the genre, whoever is watching, films can always do one thing. Make us feel. Joy, pride, elation, grief, sadness, fear, freedom, acceptance, content. It can cover them all.

2. Films can help you find your way through something you're facing

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Oh yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it or learn from it.

- Rafiki, The Lion King

Sometimes we feel the need to escape our struggles whilst knowing we can’t outrun them forever and at the same time facing them head on can be a terrifying prospect.

I find films to be a great way to feel my way through what I’m facing. Whether it’s loss, loneliness, hopelessness, fear, anger or uncertainty. These emotions and many more are something we can feel and navigate through the characters in the films we watch.

A film I love is Eternals. To me it feels like a journey through change, loss and questioned purpose in the face of incredible odds. Whilst we might not need to make a choice in the same fantastical scenario, we are faced with difficult choices throughout our lives. Stories like this can help us find a place of acceptance within the grey when we so often want things to be black and white.

3. Films can teach us valuable life lessons

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How many times do I have to teach you: just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

- Shuri, Black Panther

As with all different kinds of expression and stories, there are incredible lessons we can take from many films which can help our own approach to life.

What feels timely and right for you will depend on what you’re facing right now but there is a universal lesson that we can all benefit from in the form of a Pixar gem, Inside Out. In a world where we can feel like everything has to be perfect and rosy, where we have to look a certain way and meet certain standards, Inside Out shows us that the balance of things is important.

The film shows us that feeling all the emotions we’re faced with, and not just the positive ones, can help to bring us to a place of acceptance. If we try to ignore them, select the ideal ones or focus on how we feel things should be, rather than how they actually are, we are not putting ourselves in the best position to make helpful and positive decisions about ourselves.

As the saying goes, we need to go through to get out.

4. Films can spark connections with others

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In my culture, death is not the end. It’s more of a stepping off point.

- Black Panther, Captain America: Civil War

Finally, we have the role films play in conversation. Just like a good TV show or song, films have important topics and messages at their core and so, often, a film can bring up something within us that we want or need to let out.

Whether it’s a cause we care about or an experience that rings true for you, it can open the flood gates. Moments of vulnerability, insight, connection and understanding. It’s an incredible opportunity to deepen or start the construction of all kinds of relationships around us.

Whether it’s historical epics like 1917, fantastical adventures like Lord of the Rings, superheroes like Black Panther or romantic-comedy dramas like Crazy Rich Asians, they have something incredibly valuable to offer us, our health and wellbeing.

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Just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn’t mean they’re lost forever.

Professor X X Men: Days of Future Past