We watch TV for a lot of reasons. To unwind, to space out, to pass a rainy weekend or a lonely night. But did you know that TV is also a huge source of happiness?
If you've been feeling guilty about spending a few hours a day in front of the tube, fret no more. Here are 12 ways watching TV can make your happier:
Make it a choice. Instead of plopping down on the couch with a bag of Doritos and watching a soul-sucking reality show after a long day, decide to spend an hour or two watching some great TV.
"I always think about the 'bad trance,' when you're spacing out, your mouth is hanging half open and you're just sort of lost, hours go by and you have nothing to show for it," Gretchen Rubin, author of "The Happiness Project," told HuffPost TV. "But when you're deciding to watch TV, when you say to yourself, 'I'm going to watch this live,' it can be great. Recording things so you can do it on your own time is great too."
Anticipate It. According to Rubin, anticipating anything -- a vacation, dinner with a good friend -- contributes to happiness, so it's no surprise that looking forward to that next episode of "Game Of Thrones" will put you in a good mood.
Use TV to get closer to friends and family. Having a hard time connecting with your teenage daughter? Turn on the TV.
"[Watching TV] is a companionable thing to do," Rubin said. "A lot of people have said they use it to talk to their teenager about values ... it's not confrontational because it's not people you actually know, but it lets you talk about drinking, drugs, materialism or feminism. You also show that you're interested in what someone else is interested in."
TV can help forge connections. "In the end, it's relationships that make people happy." Rubin said. "[TV] gives you something in common that doesn't expose very much ... it's small talk. And there's always something to talk about because things are always changing. It's an easy way to connect with people."
Watch the commercials. You might think you hate having "Mad Men" interrupted at a pivotal moment, but studies show that watching commercials actually makes you happier.
"People do enjoy it more when there are commercials," Rubin explained. "Pleasure in things like a massage are heightened when they're interrupted. It gives us a little spike."
Pair TV with something. Having a hard time getting to the gym? Rubin has found that TV be helpful in habit formation, so tell yourself you can only watch "Downton Abbey" while you're on the treadmill. Soon enough you'll be associating your morning run with the twists and turns of Lady Mary's many romances.
Use it mindfully. In addition to choosing when to watch TV, making good use of that time can help you check items off your to-do list and give you a feeling of accomplishment. For example, if you really hate those commercials, use them to work on unloading the dishwasher.
"It's sort of a way to constantly go back and forth between fun and work," Rubin explained. "That's mindfully using TV. It's asking yourself, 'how can I the best use of this experience?'"
It can be comforting. If you're someone who travels a lot for work, channel surfing can be comforting in an unfamiliar space. And for any day-to-day gloominess, having a go-to TV show that's guaranteed to cheer you up is incredibly helpful.
"'The Office' always cheers me up if I need to to give myself a little boost and want to intervene," Rubin said. "It's a mindful use of television to say 'I'm watching this for a reason, I'm deciding what I want to get out of it … I'm going to get what I want, and when I have it I'll be done.'"
Binge watch ... We're officially living in the era of binge watching, and it isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"There is something enormously satisfying about binge watching," Rubin said. "It changes the nature of the television-watching experience. You think about it in a different way when you know people can watch it all in a row."
... But know when to stop. "As great as it it is, it can get out of control," Rubin continued, noting that it can be a huge time suck. "If you feel like you might actually watch all of 'House Of Cards,' instead maybe you decide to only watch with someone else.
Learn about TV. To make your TV-watching experience richer and more exciting, get to know your favorite TV show.
"One of the things about TV is that, like anything, the more you bring to it the more you get out of it," Rubin said. "So try to learn about TV and understand it better."
Reflect on it. Remembering great moments from your favorite TV shows can bring up feelings of happiness and joy.
"Sometimes you feel like you just want to think about what you saw for hours," Rubin said. "I can just sit there and think about my favorite scenes from 'The Wire.' It makes me happy. I'm in the dentist's chair giving myself a little highlight reel."