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Comforting tv

Comforting TV

Like anyone in this world, I have times when I need to seek comfort. I’m an affectionate person, and nothing beats a hug from my family or Jim or a good friend when I’m feeling vulnerable or tired or sick.  My list of comfort foods changes as time goes on, but a grilled cheese and a cup of soup are always welcome when I need to feel cozy and loved.  (A cup of tea works pretty well, too.)

There are lots of things in my house that bring me comfort, and for that I am lucky.  Especially when migraine has me down (even if I am not in a lot of pain I can get bummed and/or totally fatigued with this chronic condition), I seek out those things that make me feel cozy and loved.  I’m thirty-four years old and still have a little stuffed lamb (her name is Lamby, obviously, and I have a photo of her in her fluffier days lying next to me in my crib) I might hug from time to time. There are books I return to over and over again because opening their well-loved pages feels like coming home.

Happily, I am a migraineur who, except in my level-ten attacks, can watch certain TV shows when I’m feeling down.

At the very top of my list is The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Hands down, it’s my favorite series and one I have never tired of since starting to watch it on Nick at Nite when I was in seventh grade. I own the series on DVD and will watch episodes repeatedly—as I watch, I feel comforted in the same way I do when I read a favorite book from elementary school or have someone play with my hair.  (Okay, slight exaggeration there, as there is NOTHING better than having someone play with my hair, as long as I’m not in the midst of one of my really terrible migraines wherein my allodynia is through the roof and I can’t tolerate any touch.)


Jim, who also has migraine disease, has also watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show during an attack.  I have some other chronically ill folks who feel the same way about the show.  That got me thinking: what exactly is it about this show that makes it good “sick TV”?  Longtime fans love the familiar storylines, the humor, and the nostalgia factor. But I think there’s something more at work.

You see, this show (and many other classic dramas and comedies) is easy on the eyes and ears.  The lighting is pretty consistent scene by scene, and there are no action sequences that feature loud sound effects or flashing lights.

Think your average modern-day TV show doesn’t have lighting that affects you?  Try this trick:  sit on a chair while you watch TV in the dark, but instead of looking at the TV directly, look at the floor or at your lap.  Notice how the light is flashing many times a minute.  Advertisers figured out that people’s brains are attracted to near-constant stimulation, so the more frequently the angles change and lighting alters, the more the average brain wants to keep watching.  Loud noises and sound levels that vary dramatically moment to moment are also designed to keep us watching and listening. Unfortunately for those of us migraineurs who are particularly sensitive to sound and light, this is NOT a good development in technology.

What do you think? Are you able to watch TV or movies during an attack? If so, what sort of programs are you most attracted to? 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • adriene
    2 years ago

    I love MTM but her high pitched voice would make me nuts with a migraine. Interesting how everyone is different.

  • adriene
    2 years ago

    I cannot watch tv during a migraine. Are you kidding? Watching TV is just a headache to me. Migraine is debilitating. To me there is no such thing as a mild migraine. How do I get one? 🙂

  • Melissa D.
    4 years ago

    I’m also really lucky in that only w/ MOST painful attacks I can watch TV. My comfort? Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax. Laughing with others as they lampoon bad movie somehow makes it ok that I couldn’t leave my bed that day.

  • Jen Cragen
    4 years ago

    I too like to be talked to when having a mild to moderate migraine. I really like fiction audio books and lectures. There’s a plot to follow but not overly complex.

    Haven’t tried finding comfort tv yet. Will work on that as time goes by. Oh, that’s one…As Time Goes By. Waiting For God with Dianna and Tom. Good Neighbors. Can you tell I like old BritComs?

  • cynajen
    4 years ago

    I love Mary Tyler Moore! My go to is The Golden Girls. Anything from the 70’s and 80’s. And I have a stuffed bear my dad gave me as a Valentine’s Day present when I was 6, named Sean that must be snuggled in my arms. It seems many of us have our go-to’s!

  • Angie
    4 years ago

    In the past I thought I had to have everything quite during a migraine attack. Then during an ER visit for emergency IV meds to stop an attack the nurse turned a radio on in the room. At first I wanted to scream until I realized that I could focus on the music and then all of the “white noise” did not seem so excruciating (i.e. The clock ticking, doors closing, papers moving, people walking in the hall, basically every noise.)

    Since then I have found a radio on low volumn or a TV / movie I have seem over and over again is a great migraine tool. Light is a huge issue for me so I tend to cover my eyes, and like so many of you, visualize the characters. It covers the white noise and helps distract me from the pain.

    My kids and boyfriend often wonder how I can watch the same thing so many times but if it helps, they are all for it.

    Thank you for sharing this. It helps to know you are not alone.

  • nmyers09
    4 years ago

    I tend to watch “mindless” tv, such as house hunters on hgtv. Lots and lots of hgtv, history channel and so on. However I have an older tv which effects my head worse, so instead of using the tv, I can watch stuff on my tablet. My cable company has an app so I can watch on demand or live tv on it. I also have several other apps I watch stuff on. I also find games that I dont have to really think a bout soothing to play. Im in pain 24/7/365 so Ive learned to adapt.

    It makes me feel better that others are like me with this stuff, because I have seen other migraineurs say that nobody can have a migraine, severe or not, and play games or watch tv or be on social media. Talk about frustrating getting stigma from other migraineurs.

  • MahtaMouse
    4 years ago

    No TV, no sounds, no lights… especially the flickering of a TV)… no smells, no nothing, nada, zip, zilch. Just give me a quiet darkened room (and if daytime, my black-out mask) with the door closed, my naproxin, coffee or coffee beans, heating pad for my wrists, ice pack for my head, an icy pillow, and leave me hmm! hmm! alone 🙁 Oh and make sure you stay well away from the bathroom… nooope, you’re just going to have to hold it… in the event I need to make an EM dash.

  • Vicki H
    4 years ago

    I absolutely cannot watch TV or movies when I’m in the midst of an attack. However, like you and MTM, I have favorite movies I’ve watched over and over again. I get my comfort by pulling those movies up on my phone and listening to them. I can “see” the movie in my mind’s eye and that provides a nice distraction from the pain I’m having. I’ll also listen to audio books for the same reason.

    I’m lucky in that, for the most part, sounds don’t bother me when I’m “migraining.” It’s lights and scents that give me the most discomfort.

  • Vicki H
    4 years ago

    Wow. I just read everyone else’s comments and am amazed at how many people do the same thing I do. My husband had me convinced I was a freak for watching the same movies over and over – then listening to them – and be able to enjoy it every time.

  • barb
    4 years ago

    Today I’ve had postdrome, and the start of another migraine I think, sigh, so I’ve had “Austenland”, and other Jane Austen-type movies on in the background when I just couldn’t stand sleeping in bed anymore. Then I moved ot the sofa to try and rest.

    I also had some comfort food of boiled noodles and hope it gets better tomorrow since I’m saving my meds for this weekend’s big event at work.

  • Erin
    4 years ago

    My sister turns on the “headache light” when I watch TV. It helps tone down the bright lights from the TV. I might be a bit odd, but I love watching scary movies to distract myself. Movies like Alien, Aliens, and the first two Predator movies. And I’ve seen them so many times I can close my eyes and follow along with the dialog and music. I also hug my Wuzzle, Bumblelion. I’ve had him for more than 30 years. He’s a huge comfort to me.

  • Erin Kenny
    4 years ago

    Netflix is my friend. During a migraine I will put on a familiar show (like Star Trek) and “watch” it with my eyes closed. I know the show so well that I don’t need to actually see what the characters are doing. On worse days I’ll put on a Disney animated movie – I love them and find them soothing. Of course, *nothing* is ok during a 10! (I have a bear I keep with me – his name is Toby)

  • Nancy
    4 years ago

    I agree with Mary Tyler Moore. I also use to enjoy Newhart. Comforting TV to me doesn’t have a lot of strong emotion to it and definitely no banging or screeching. My husband gets a kick out of how I’ll watch Antique Roadshow or American Pickers, save the episode and then if I’m down with a migraine I can just listen to the same show episode without having to actually watch the screen. It’s nice to know I’m not alone with all this.

  • Kim
    4 years ago

    I’ve never watched MTM, so perhaps I’ll have to try it – I just set up a series recording. 😉 But I too have the light and sound sensitivity. I will watch something with captions, no sound, once the nausea is under control. I’ve always appreciated the BBC news for announcing beforehand that there will be flash photography in footage so I can squint or even close my eyes as even when I am not experiencing a migraine this is painful to me. Why TV shows don’t give our poor eyes a break and make shows a pleasure to watch rather than a gauntlet…! I’m so grateful we don’t all have smell-o-vision. That would be the end of me.

  • Not-Again
    4 years ago

    I am so glad to see this post. As a single person with two furry kids (dogs), when I am having a migraine attack, I find the older shows are more soothing than anything on TV today, except I do like the Big Bang Theory, even though I have to put my hands over my eyes during the blurry fast paced opening. I enjoy watching movies or TV shows on DVDs so my attack is not worsened when commercials come on with a higher level of audio and faster screen movements. I have a few tricks when it comes to lighting. I have found that warm colored, scent-free, LED flame-less candles with timers on them work very well for me. Usually I have one or two around the TV so the light becomes softer. If my head is feeling like it wants to explode, I still crave “the company” of the TV characters on the shows I like to watch, so I’ll put my eye mask on. Crazy as it may sound, no pun intended, it makes me feel like I’m not alone and I’ve created a more cozy environment to heal in.

    I watch some of the old BBC shows, like “As Time Goes By”, “Chef”, and PBS. I haven’t thought about MTM in a long time – I want to add that to my DVD library!

    Thank you for the tips on old books and Lamby. I’ve been wanting to get a teddy bear for the times when my dogs want to be up and about but I need to be in bed for awhile longer.

    Your story made me smile. A treasured moment for those of us with migraine disease.

  • barb
    4 years ago

    Sing it fellow Singleton! It’s always nice to have any comfort we can. I recently took the MIDAS test again and always an overachiever I was a 45…woohoo! But seriously dim lighting is nice. I’ve been wondering about those flameless candles and I might have to get some.

    I also have some plain noodles the other day and they were worth getting up and cooking. The dishes, alas, will wait for another day. 🙂

  • Bookshelf Cat
    4 years ago

    I like to watch The Office (US version.) It’s a funny show, but most of the scenes are relatively quiet and calm. I never really thought about it before reading this blog post, but the lighting doesn’t seem to change much from scene to scene because 95% of it takes place in the same setting, inside of the office.

    Like most of the other people commenting, I watch in a dark room with the sound turned down pretty far. I can usually watch tv during an attack, unless the migraine pain is an 8 or higher.

  • Chrys
    4 years ago

    If it’s really bad I find that listening to mellow “talk” is more calming than silence. My go-to shows are Turner Classic Movies, nature shows or shows like Cosmos. Sometimes PBS. Also, oddly enough, golf and baseball due to their slower pace and mellow commentary. I usually just listen rather than watch. It helps me focus and concentrate in a meditative sort of way so that I can go to sleep. Jazz on the radio has also been helpful.

  • Kim
    4 years ago

    I’ve put baseball games on during migraines! I like the quiet pace of the commentary and, living in Seattle with such a beautiful baseball facility, I can close my eyes and imagine myself there, enjoying the game. Removes me from everything for a bit.

  • Linda K.
    4 years ago

    TV is a great distraction for me when I am down. I love the “oldies” stations that play Columbo, Hart to Hart, Newhart, Murder she Wrote, etc. Interestingly, recently they started playing Quincy reruns. I used to love that show. But now I can’t tolerate it. There is so much yelling!!

  • JAR
    4 years ago

    I am a MTM lover too, but haven’t seen it in recent history. How interesting about the lighting. In general, when I’m home, I have the TV on. It really helps to distract me from the pain. (I have NDPH and chronic migraine.) I’m going to try to look for the MTM show and others that might have similar lighting qualities to see if that helps even more. Thanks for the tip!

  • Leynal
    4 years ago

    You are absolutely right!!! I’ve been trying to tell my husband what shows and movies I can watch, during a migraine or even what can trigger a migraine, for a long time now. Some movies are so flashy and loud and change shots every second, way too much for my brain to handle.
    Great article!!!
    Right now a show that I noticed is really good for me is Antiques Road Show 😉 very simple and quiet… Also, as I’m sure most of you do, I have my tvs and tablets brightness down all the way. Makes a big difference!

  • Mary
    4 years ago

    I loved MTM but when I have a “wicked” migraine I tell my husband that I’m going to kill Orcs. I will watch one of the Lord of the Rings movies or the Hobbit and the battles with the Orcs are my way of trying to “kill” off my migraine! I do keep the sound down and watch them in the dark.

  • Stagemom
    4 years ago

    I love MTM. One of the best shows ever. But, my migraine go to show is Monty Pythons Flying Circus! No thinking needed. Just total craziness and fun. It almost makes me forget I have a migraine.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    4 years ago

    I actually haven’t seen this show (I’m notorious for not having seen some show/movie/etc that everyone else I know has seen a million times), but I do love listening to podcasts during my worst migraines. My favorite one is Car Talk. I was so sad when one of the co-hosts passed away recently. This podcast is a good option for me because it’s lighthearted, with short segments (phone calls) so I don’t have to follow a long narrative, and…comforting!
    Lisa

  • Dolly Ward Paice
    4 years ago

    Unbelievably enough, the TV will drive me insane during a migraine with the movements on the screen. Yet I can put in my earphones and listen to my MP3 player quite loudly and find myself a little more relaxed….

  • Sandy
    4 years ago

    Yes I noticed a difference just bc we watch tv without lights in bed. When my disease turned chronic this has been the biggest adjustment no-no for my husband. Yes any old show. Black and white. Havent found a favorite. Love turner classic movie clannel… b&w movies with no commericals that I have to constantly turn volume down then up.

  • Mimi
    4 years ago

    I have noticed that I am more comfortable watching older TV shows and movies. I am even better when they are in black and white.When I’m in full blown migraine, I can not watch any TV or use the computer. I’m very grateful for this site. I have felt alone with this condition, but reading what others experience, has helped me know that I am not alone ! Thanks, M.

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