Scare yourself! It’s good for you.
It doesn’t have to be Halloween for people to seek out a good scare, just ask any horror-film junkie. There’s a reasons for that—scaring yourself can actually have both mental and physical health benefits.
First, let’s qualify what we mean by “scaring yourself” or a “good scare” with a few popular choices:
- Horror movies and TV series (from The Shining to Stranger Things)
- Novels (from Goosebumps to Steven King)
- Haunted houses
- Rollercoasters and thrill rides
Of course, what qualifies and a “good scare” varies by person. You may love haunted houses, but skydiving is a no-go. It’s important to remember that it’s only a healthy scare if it’s fun for you. Real fear is a very different kind of stress with its own list of health effects—most of them bad.
So how can a good scare be good for you? According to sociologist Margee Kerr’s TED-Ed, here are a few ways:
- Being scared can feel good. The flood of chemicals released by your body in response to a good scare can leave you feeling energized and pain-free.
- Take a break from everyday worries. Thinking about global warming or how to respond to your cousin’s most recent Facebook rant? A good scare pauses your critical thinking, pushing all those lesser worries into the background.
- Boost your self-esteem. Facing something that terrifies you, even in the context of fun, can give you a confidence boost. Even though your mind knows it’s not real, your body feels a sense of accomplishment as if it was—because the chemicals released are the same either way.
- Fear brings people together. Have you ever noticed that Saturday Night Live just isn’t as funny if you watch it alone? That’s because emotions are contagious. You make sense of your experiences by seeing how your friends respond. That makes you both feels closer to the person you experience it with and (if it’s a good scare) want to repeat the experience again and again.
So, go ahead and seek out those thrills and scares—but only if it sounds like fun! And no matter how scared you get, don’t sleep with the light on (it’s bad for your sleep quality).