Watch reality TV, increase your willpower (really)

Watching reality television shows can actually increase your willpower, whether that’s a Survivor immunity challenge, contestants eating something gross on Fear Factor, or people sorting through their crap on Hoarders.

Stanford health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It, says that reality TV is one of five “strategic indulgences” that can act as “willpower boosts whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed.”

That’s because, she writes in a Psychology Today article, that “willpower can be contagious” and some “reality shows feature people working hard to overcome obstacles–whether it’s losing weight, facing their fears, or even just organizing their clutter.” That “inspiration can help you find your own strength,” although she warns that “You can also catch temptation” so avoid shows that feature “spectacular lapses of judgment and self-control.”

Uh oh. Lapses of judgement and self-control? What reality series doesn’t have those?

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.