If you’re like me, then you love a good scare. Roller coasters? Bring’em on! Haunted houses? I’m there! Spooky movies? Yes please! And while it might seem like nothing more than a fun way to get your adrenaline pumping, it turns out that experiencing a good scare can actually have some pretty incredible health benefits. Here are five ways that getting your scare on can improve your health, both mentally and physically.
1. It boosts your immune system
Yep, the fight-or-flight reaction that we get from being scared, is actually beneficial to the immune system. The short-term stress we experience boosts our ability to create more leukocytes, disease-fighting immune cells, which our rapidly beating heart pumps through the body. We will also release more cortisol, which can boost your immunity by limiting inflammation. So if you’re looking for a natural way to boost your immunity this cold and flu season, make sure to add some horror films to your watch list!
2. It burns calories
‘Tis the season for haunted hayrides and scary movies, and one research from the United Kingdom claims that watching a heart-pumping horror flick can help you burn calories. It’s a small study and a bit of a stretch, but it claims that you could burn as many calories as you would during a 30-minute walk. In fact, the scarier the movie, the more calories burned. However, I’m sure they didn’t factor in the added calories you might eat during a scary movie. Pro tip: to sneak in some extra cardio, turn on The Exorcist next time you hop on the elliptical.
3. It reduces stress
We all know that feeling of being on the edge of our seat during a particularly suspenseful scene in a movie. And while it may not feel pleasant in the moment, a scare flick can actually help to reduce stress and anxiety. As our heart rate goes up, our brains get flooded with a slew of feel-good chemicals like adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine. Horror flicks are also a fantastic way to divert our minds off of our worries and provide a positive break from pent-up anxiety. They force you to concentrate on one subject rather than the one you’re currently concerned about, such as the monster in the room or whatever it is.
4. Being scared can lead to positive social bonding and interactions
Experiencing fear is often thought of as a solo activity, something we do alone in the dark with our eyes closed tight (think: hiding under the covers from monsters). But new research suggests that being scared together can actually lead to positive social interactions and bonding among groups of people. Oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone” is released when we feel fear—it draws people closer together and strengthens bonds. This happens because deep down, we know that our survival odds are better if we’re not alone. Maybe this is why people on dates like to watch scary movies together. It’s an excuse to be closer to the other person. So next time you’re looking for something fun to do with friends or family, consider taking them on a trip through a haunted house—you might just come out closer than when you went in.
5. It can help you face your fears
This one might seem a little counter-intuitive, but bear with me. One of the best ways to overcome a fear is by exposure to that fear in a controlled setting. This may be part of the reason why many anxiety sufferers are fans of the genre. For some people, horror is a way to face their real-life worries head on, almost like exposure therapy. For example, if you’re afraid of heights, watching a movie with lots of scenes featuring people high up off the ground might help you to slowly become less afraid. Obviously, you don’t want to jump out of an airplane after watching Vertigo, but baby steps, people. Baby steps.
So go embrace the season
Getting scared may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no denying that they can offer some surprising benefits. So next time you’re looking for a way to reduce stress, get out of a funk, bond with friends, challenge some fears or just have a little fun, go ahead and indulge in your love of all things scary this Halloween season—it just might do you some good.