Entertainment for decompressing
September 27, 2019 1:14 PM   Subscribe

I just realized how soothing it is to watch the Great British Baking show. There is a plot of sorts to keep me engaged, a goal that they are working toward, but there is absolutely no risk of activating my fight or flight response. The narration is soothing and pleasing to my ears, and if I zone out a little bit I won't be frustrated about what I missed. So it is a great option if my body is just at a limit of intensity or overwhelm. I'm seeking other things to watch, read and do, that offer this kind of predictable safety so I can park myself there and give my body and brain a break.

I am ideally seeking information to consume through media, websites, or activities that offer absolutely zero chance of sudden unexpected changes, violent themes of any kind, jump scares, gruesomeness, or even intense interpersonal conflict.

I need something to help balance out other areas of life where I am involved in a lot of intensity. So even a visit to the park, can technically involve the potential for unwanted socialization or mugging or whatever so it would not fit on this list I'm trying to generate, if that helps you understand how I am conceptualizing this.

I do not need music recommendations. I'm good there.

I would love both passive and active things. Things I can do while not moving at all, as well as things that would require some level of movement (think Tai chi or stretch to this YouTube video with a personal trainer covered in puppies).
posted by crunchy potato to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (44 answers total) 128 users marked this as a favorite
Watching Brooklyn 99 has this effect for many people. It’s very funny, rarely mean or stress-inducing, and the relationships are the root of its appeal, rather than the plot, so it’s ok to zone out a little. It also has a diverse cast, is surprisingly unproblematic, and therefore welcoming to many demographics of viewer.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 1:29 PM on September 27, 2019 [11 favorites]

The In Our Time podcast might be up your alley. Just three academics and a genial host with a soothing voice discussing a topic in history/philosophy/science/arts for an hour. The only criteria of yours it might not fit is that you'll miss some information if you zone out (even if it's not usually hard to get back into it), and it's not really a "give your brain a break" show.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:30 PM on September 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

I cross stitch - there's a ton on Pinterest to help you get started. You can do this WHILE watching the bakers or not. It takes some focus to keep count, but it's quite soothing. And you can keep the materials pretty inexpensive.
posted by wellred at 1:30 PM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

I was just discussing with friends that we get a similar GBBO energy from Bon Appetit's "Gourmet Makes..." youtube series, where a pastry chef tries to recreate things like Kit-Kats, Pop Rocks, Pocky, Twinkies etc. The dramatic arc is, you know, will her idea work??

My go-to comfort watches (aside from the ones above, plus Masterchef Australia which has a similar "all the contestants weep when one of them is eliminated" spirit) are live-aboard narrowboaters on the UK canal system. The scenery is beautiful, the boats only go about 2mph, and about the worst that happens is a) some equipment breaks and needs to be fixed or b) another boater or passer-by doesn't observe the best etiquette (and even these are generally reported second-hand). My favorite channels are The Narrowboat Experience (two wives, two cats, plus bonus episodes where they leave the boat to go look at a nearby historical location), Minimal List (One American, one Brit, one dog, excellent maps of the canal system), and Cruising the Cut (One fairly cheerful sort of curmudgeon, no pets, the early episodes on his channel have a lot of technical information).

You might also enjoy All The Stations, in which two train enthusiasts visit all the stations in Great Britain (first season) and Ireland (second season).
posted by Lyn Never at 1:35 PM on September 27, 2019 [15 favorites]

I've recently gotten into watching YouTube videos on crafting miniature terrain and props for tabletop tole-playing games, most especially Black Magic Craft. There's just something soothing about watching someone build something competently.
posted by telophase at 1:43 PM on September 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Detectorists is the most soothing show I have ever seen. There are lots of shots of the British countryside. The problems are generally just everyday ones that everyone experiences. I find it just really relaxing.
posted by Quonab at 1:45 PM on September 27, 2019 [16 favorites]

I really liked a show called Lords and Ladles for this exact reason and in fact I stumbled upon it when poking around after running out of GBBO episodes. Three Irish chefs visit old Irish estates and recreate a menu from the heyday of that estate, each chef filling a different role. Very soothing.
posted by SeedStitch at 1:47 PM on September 27, 2019 [11 favorites]

Love GBBO for the same reasons. Netflix has a show that is a fairly transparent GBBO knock-off focused around families doing amateur cooking together. It's called The Big Family Cooking Showdown which is a name so generic I always forget it instantly, and there are two seasons. It hits pretty much all the same notes as GBBO and the first season even has Nadiya Hussain as one of the presenters.

Elsewhere on the soothing cooking beat, I recently saw a recommendation on MetaFilter for The Chef's Line and it's living up to my expectations. It has a gimmicky format--amateurs go up against progressively more talented professionals, with blind taste-testing at the end--but the vibe is very chill and I was amused to note the professionals coming over to help the amateurs when they start to fuck up really egregiously.
posted by zeusianfog at 1:53 PM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

If podcasts qualify, then what you need is Kermode and Mayo's Film Review from the BBC. Utterly soothing without being vapid.
posted by Grunyon at 1:53 PM on September 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Playing Stardew Valley does this for me (stay out of the mines, there is some light fighting there). Walk around, talk to your co-villagers, tend to your farm, do more puttering, etc. Very soothing.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 1:54 PM on September 27, 2019 [8 favorites]

Big Dreams, Small Spaces. It's a British gardening show where people plan out their ideal garden spaces, get periodic advice from a friendly expert, and slowly transform their gardens. It's really adorable and relaxing.
posted by rachaelfaith at 2:06 PM on September 27, 2019 [20 favorites]

Li Ziqi's Youtube channel is pretty great for this. You get to see some gorgeous scenery of rural China and watch her cook, farm, and make things from scratch.
posted by yasaman at 2:07 PM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

I find the podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed very soothing. WYNC bills the show as "John Green reviews facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale" but it's basically just him reading really thoughtful essays he has written about random subjects—everything from the Indy 500 to prom. Very nice sound design too.
posted by radioamy at 2:09 PM on September 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Chiming in with the thumbs-up for "Lords & Ladles" and "The Chef Line". I also enjoyed "Blown Away" on Netflix - it's a reality competition show featuring artists who blow glass.
posted by briank at 2:11 PM on September 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

The Vicar of Dibley is like a warm bath. When I had really bad anxiety a few years ago it was basically the only thing I could watch.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:11 PM on September 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

Bob Ross—there are a million episodes on Netflix.
posted by lovableiago at 2:27 PM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Parks and Recreation is a great show, very relaxing. Maybe very minor conflict at times.

Another thing is listening to test match special (ie test cricket).. try this if you are in US: Link
posted by Lucy_32 at 2:27 PM on September 27, 2019

I like candy making videos on YouTube--Hercules Candy and Lofty Pursuits. I also really love Bob's Burgers for this. It's funny and everybody's weird, but everybody loves each other.
posted by mareliz at 2:46 PM on September 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I like the tv show Gardeners' World for exactly this sort of relaxation. It's got gardens, dogs and Monty Don, and about the highest stakes action is wondering how the plants in Frances's allotment will do this season.
posted by notquitejane at 2:46 PM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Also on youtube: Rescue and Restore. It's restoration (sand blasting, repainting, disassembling, reassembling) of old metal objects and toys. No voice or music, just the sounds of the machines.
posted by mareliz at 2:47 PM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

The GBBO spin off The Great British Sewing Bee is incredibly soothing. It's the same Bake Off format, but with sewing. It's not even about fashion, that plays a very small element to the judges. It's all about technical skill, tailoring, and creativity.

Making It is another great option. It's basically GBBO but for crafts, and in the US. It's the same warm, 'we want everyone to do well' spirit. It's hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman and it feels like Parks and Rec come to life. Season 2 is nearly here!
posted by Garm at 2:47 PM on September 27, 2019 [9 favorites]

I have to recommend the excellent Victorian Farm series! It follows three historians as they live immersed in Victorian life for a year on a functioning farm. Fully available on Youtube as well as its delightful spin-offs including Wartime Farm, Edwardian Farm, and Tudor Monastery. I'm pretty sure there's a few more seasons in the series...
posted by eggs at 2:49 PM on September 27, 2019 [20 favorites]

There’s some overlap between recommendations on this thread and shows that my Mr has liked. Midnight Diner is a show on Netflix about folks who meet at a diner in Tokyo and has a peaceful, quirky vibe. I haven’t seen all the episodes so I can’t say if all of them are conflict-free.
posted by matildaben at 3:15 PM on September 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you're into the wonderfully dry snark and eclectic vocabulary of Richard Ayoade, I highly recommend Travel Man. He spends a weekend in a different city with a guest/friend and the results are often hilarious and (for me) fit that sweet spot that GBBO also hits.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:21 PM on September 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

To continue eggs comment: Tales from the Green Valley was the first of Ruth Goodman's farms series and in Secrets of the Castle her team work at the various crafts needed to build the reproduction Guedelon Castle. She has also made series on British rail history and Victorian pharmacies. They are all informative, low drama (except for things like rain at harvest time) and beautifully shot.
posted by Botanizer at 3:21 PM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Coloring -- real life or in an app (I use Tap Color on iOS and Android)

Most of what The Food Network and Cooking channel would seem to scratch the same itch as GBBO.
Also DIY and HGTV kinda scratch that itch too.
posted by kathrynm at 3:24 PM on September 27, 2019

In the same vein as GBBO and the Great British Sewing Bee, there is also The Great Pottery Throwndown. Episodes are on youtube.

And maybe a headspace subscription? It's very soothing.

Also it's ridiculous, but I started watching the home shopping channels when I was super stressed out.
posted by Duffington at 3:26 PM on September 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

This is what I watch thousands of hours of HGTV for, especially House Hunters. I like getting to see three different houses and some scenic shots in the international version, and I like guessing which house/apartment they are "picking" (aka already chose before filming). The only conflict is all low-key and super transparent, usually about who wants "old world charm" and who wants "modern" in the aesthetic, or who wants to be out in the 'burbs vs right downtown.
posted by TwoStride at 3:30 PM on September 27, 2019 [6 favorites]

Pluto, the free streaming app, has a 24-hour channel devoted to Antiques Roadshow UK, which is not only much more interesting than the US version, but also lovely and soothing and easy to nap to. All it's missing from your list is a plot of sorts!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:54 PM on September 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

the Chef Show on Netflix.

I just binged through season 2, and it was so relaxing with fun conversations and delicious foods. I dare say I even liked season 2 more than 1, it has a bit more cooking.

“ Writer, director and food enthusiast Jon Favreau and chef Roy Choi explore food in and out of the kitchen with accomplished chefs and celebrity friends.”
posted by inevitability at 4:26 PM on September 27, 2019

Rick Steves' Europe is pretty good for this.
posted by Miko at 5:16 PM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Northern Exposure was always a happy place kind of show for me. It's quirkiness is what makes it interesting, more so than drama or plot. Conflict is generally low-key and amusing, and there are a number of very chill characters whose presence just soothes... Marilyn, Chris, and Ed, for example.

Learning how to do Reiki is good for promoting relaxation and well-being. One thing you learn is how to do self-treatments. Lying in my recliner channeling the healing energy of the universe into my body with a chunk of rose quartz resting on my chest is calming and soothing like nothing else. Takes a fairly high amount of woo tolerance but if you can deal with that you might find it a good way to relax and restore.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:22 PM on September 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I watch Wendover Productions videos for this. They're documentaries mostly about logistics of various types, which is honestly more interesting than I'm making it sound. The narrator has a soothing voice and the visuals are pleasant.

In the "competition show" category, I enjoyed watching Skin Wars, though you'd have to be alright with some mild nudity obviously, since it's a body-painting competition.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 6:33 PM on September 27, 2019

I fill this spot with Iyashikei - TV Tropes.
"Nothing really happens, but in a really good way."
— Sayaka Ohara, voice of Alicia in ARIA
Anime that is not very dramatic, sweet and simple, not much happens, what does happen is happy and leaves warm fuzzies.
Non Non Biyori: Arguably the king of feel-good anime. Quoted by Anime News Network as, "... the animated equivalent of a security blanket."

ARIA: A woman practices to be a gondolier in a futuristic Venice. Gorgeous visuals and an easygoing storyline makes it ideal for those who just want to relax.
There are a bunch listed on the TV Tropes page. If you can stand cartoons and subtitles, a bunch of them are on Crunchyroll.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:32 PM on September 27, 2019

Did you know that there are a whole bunch of GBBO spin offs in other countries? Australia (hi!), Ireland, Canada, New Zealand...they're all the same relaxing format with cheesy hosts. It's just a matter of getting hold of them!

There's also Blown Away, a glass blowing themed show along similar lines to GBBO. Some glass breakage does occur though.
posted by eloeth-starr at 11:50 PM on September 27, 2019

Seconding Lords and Ladles, and all the historical re-creation shows eggs mentions.

I also highly recommend Supersizers (featuring GBBO's Sue), Regency House Party, and Victorian Pharmacy.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:22 AM on September 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes is on Netflix - the presenters (a very architecty architect called Piers and British actor / very-much-not-an-architect Caroline Quentin) visit architecturally interesting homes and talk about whether they like them or not (Piers usually does, Caroline is aware of practical questions like ‘this room is entirely made of steel and has no chairs or carpets’). Entertaining, interesting, and because they do three or four houses an episode you get to work out which is your favourite at the end.
posted by inire at 3:06 AM on September 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

BBC's Escape to the Country is pretty good for this. Soothing music, and no one really gets upset.

Yuru Camp (Laid Back Camp) is one of the best of the iyashikei listed above especially in autumn.

Kodoku no Gurume (The Solitary Gourmet) has later seasons on Netflix (or perhaps other sites).
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 3:44 AM on September 28, 2019

Came here to recommend Gardener's World with Monty Don, but notquitejane already did. Do not underestimate Monty Don's power to soothe. This show is like freakin prozac. Sometimes it's quite moving, once you get a sense of the care, work, and intelligence that go into an extraordinary garden. AND Monty Don sometimes speaks about gardening as therapy, how he used it to overcome his own depression. Plus, you'll know a lot more about gardening from watching. And there are dogs.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 12:29 AM on September 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

Nthing anything with Monty Don. Big Dreams, Small Spaces is my go-to relaxation fix. He is so soothing and patient even when the people he is working with totally ignore his advice.
posted by Preserver at 8:36 AM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’ve been feeling GBBO too recently. I enjoyed Blown Away. There’s another show my husband likes, Escape to the Continent, that might appeal to you. It’s produced by BBC like GBBO and while the idea is similar to House Hunters International, I didn’t find myself as annoyed. I believe it’s on Netflix.
posted by kat518 at 11:52 AM on September 29, 2019

Similar to the other tv recommendations above: Food Safari has a nice host visit the homes of immigrants to Australia to learn about their cooking and heritage; Luke Nguyen and Adam Liam both have cooking shows where they travel around Asia to show local cuisine. All of these are gentle and quiet shows, no competition or shouting.

On Netflix I like the kids' show Hilda very much. She and her friends encounter fantastic creatures but always resolve issues by helping the creatures to win-win solutions.

I like knitting and colouring as well, or reading biographies and histories of quirky but impersonal topics (tulip mania or how the first dictionary was written).
posted by harriet vane at 7:41 AM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Adam Savage's new series "Savage Builds" (only one season so far) is good because he's very positive about his teammates, even when stuff doesn't go perfectly, and because he's got this affect of childlike delight when he's working that makes me happy.

Like, check out the episode where they stage a giant foodfight: https://www.discovery.com/shows/savage-builds/episodes/episode-7

So much cackling about the hotdogs.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:56 AM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Two Irish comedians named Dara O'Briain and Ed Byrne do travel shows together that I have enjoyed. The men are humble and curious and self-deprecating, and also the scenery is good. Also, no peril.

I think they're BBC shows, but I have found them online with a minimum of searching.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:58 AM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

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