How watching Eurovision can improve your wellbeing (yes, really)
Did you know that watching Eurovision is packed full of psychological benefits? Yes, really.
Updated on 14 May 2022: Following last year’s socially-distanced Eurovision song contest, which took place in Rotterdam, the 2022 Grand Final is bringing with it a renewed sense of wonder and hope.
Held in Turin, Italy, Eurovision 2022‘s theme is the slightly whimsical “The Sound of Beauty,” which is sure to bring us some interesting interpretations.
The UK’s entry for Eurovision 2022
While it usually remains highly unlikely that the UK will win the contest (the odds, to paraphrase The Hunger Games, seem to never in our favour), this year could see the tables turn.
That’s right; construction worker turned TikTok star Sam Ryder will be representing us at the Eurovision final on Saturday 14 May and, believe it or not, is second favourite to win with his uplifting power ballad Space Man.
“I don’t want to get to a point where I start believing the hype. I just want to do everyone proud, and do the best job I possibly can,” he told the BBC.
The catchy track was co-written by Amy Wadge, whose other credits include Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and Camila Cabello’s First Man.
Listen to Sam Ryder’s Space Man below:
Naturally, I can’t wait to see Ryder take to the Eurovision stage and capture the hearts of the continent (and Australia, obviously). Because, as you might have guessed by this point, I have been a loyal Eurovision viewer ever since I was old enough to hold up my head and fix my eyes on the colourful pictures flitting across the magical box installed in my parents’ living room.
As such, it’s something of an understatement to say that I love the Eurovision Song Contest. I love it. I really, really love it. As someone who a) loses her shit at firework displays, b) actively rooted for The X Factor’s Jedward, and c) carefully crafts her Spotify playlist from movie soundtracks, Disney power ballads, rousing West End choruses and the cheesiest of cheesy pop, it was, essentially, made for me.
Except, of course, it wasn’t: Eurovision was designed with far more noble intentions than entertaining pop addicts on a Saturday night.
The politics of Eurovision
As reported on 15 May 2020: First established in 1956, the contest sought to unite a continent still recovering from the ravages of World War II – with sober-faced singers, ball gowns and classic ballads in place of spandex, sparkles and über-pop. And, while there’s no doubt whatsoever that the competition has evolved somewhat (think pyrotechnics, outlandish costumes, entirely unnecessary backing dancers and a lingering air of utter madness) over the past few years, its history is irrevocably linked with incredibly significant world events.
The breakup of the Soviet Union, for example, meant that Eurovision became something like a rite of passage for many countries enjoying the first flush of independence. Greece has never once voted for Turkey. You can count on the Scandinavians to support each other, and the Balkans have each other’s back. While it was rare for the UK and Ireland to give each other points during the tumultuous 20-year period known as The Troubles, the two countries now depend upon one another’s cursory seven or eight points to save them from the dreaded nil points klaxon.
And it’s no coincidence that Austrian drag artist Conchita Wurst won the competition in 2014, as Western Europeans were reacting with disgust to Russia’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
Of course, Eurovision’s potential to be used as a tool for protest and social change has only grown over the years – and, over the past few years in particular, it has offered artists a safe, eccentric and vast platform to express individualism and political views.
In 2018, Israeli artist Netta took her inspiration from the #metoo movement (“I’m not your toy, you stupid boy”), while Ireland gave a nod to its progression in LGBTQ+ rights by staging a same-sex romance in modern dance. French pop duo Madame Monsieur gave us Mercy, a song inspired by the plight of a refugee baby plucked from a sinking boat in the Mediterranean.
Denmark has explored the concept of toxic masculinity with a song about Vikings. Italy has reminded us that hatred and terrorism can never overpower innocence. And Australia (yes, Australia) has made a point of consistently preaching a simple message of love in times of adversity.
However, while you might suspect that the show’s political agenda might make it feel… well, a little too serious, psychologists have revealed that the show is scientifically proven to give you feel-good vibes.
The psychological benefits of watching Eurovision
That’s right: a new study has found that, when a nation takes part in Eurovision, it has a 13% chance of higher “life satisfaction” among its population compared with those who don’t.
Professor Filippos Filippidis, who led the study (published in the journal BMC Public Health), found that people were 4% more likely to be satisfied with their life for every increase of 10 places on the final score board (e.g. if their country finished second rather than 12th).
However, doing badly in the contest is also associated with a greater increase in life satisfaction compared with not taking part at all. So, achieving that awful shame-inducing nil points (sorry, Jemini) is no bad thing after all.
I, personally, can testify to the mood-boosting powers of Eurovision. There’s something so magical about an entire continent coming together for such a huge event – particularly as it swivels the focus away from all the awful, anxiety-inducing headlines being churned out of Europe on a daily basis. No more political divisions, no more venomous discrimination, no more threats of military action. Instead, it’s a night of friendship, of underdogs triumphing over adversity, of glorious optimism. It is, above all else, a night of people being nice to each other.
And, if you can’t force your friends and family to watch it with you, well, no need to worry: you’ll never be alone. All you need to is log into Twitter (some 50,000 tweets a minute were posted when Conchita won) and you can join in the #Eurovision conversation with thousands of strangers – whether that be through memes, snarky Graham Norton-esque jokes, praise hand emoji on top of praise hand emoji, or (god forbid) genuine heartfelt sincerity.
Eurovision has always, always served as a reminder that we aren’t in this alone. Whether we watch because we love the music, or the politics, or the fact that it is just so appallingly bad, all of these people watching Eurovision have, for one night only, something in common. Almost a universal language, made up of points, and friendship blocs, and song titles, and shared observations, and misheard lyrics.
Why is this so vital? Because it means that, no matter where we are in the world, we can be a part of the same narrative. All we need to do is switch on our TV screen and, just like that, we’re sat in Europe’s living room with everyone else. We’re connected. We’re a part of something bigger.
Essentially, the world feels like a better place when Eurovision is on the box. Just throw in all of the hypnotically surreal musical numbers, and you have a recipe for a perfect Saturday night. Especially now.
Because, as we slowly emerge from a worldwide pandemic, it’s good to remember that we’re part of something bigger. That we’re all in this together. That, above all else, we’re not alone.
It’s a message of unity that feels more necessary than ever. As do the impossibly cheery europop tunes, quite frankly.
This article was originally published in 2018, but has been updated throughout in light of recent events.
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