4 things we can learn from Halloween to be less anxious in 2020

Marianne Lalande

Picture it. You're in a dark room filled with strangers. On the big screen, a woman is frantically trying to open a door. The music swells. You know that danger is coming. If only she could open the door on time! You're on the edge of your seat. Until it comes—the jump scare!

There are loads of articles out there about why scary movies are the best. While some argue that horror films are good for your health, it's interesting to look at why we even enjoy feeling scared... especially in 2020.

4 helpful things we can learn from Halloween on how to be less anxious

Buckle up; we're about to get spooky.

We love to scare ourselves in very specific ways

Halloween is a strange season; it's the one time of the year when we just love to give ourselves a fright. Haunted houses, ghost-hunting, fright nights, scary stories told around a campfire, horror films... Get your blankets ready, for the season of fear has arrived.

But why do we enjoy being scared? 😈

Most of the time, we do everything in our power to feel safe and content. Chasing fear isn't a common self-care tip you'll find on a wellness Instagram account. And yet, it is undeniable: we love to scare ourselves for fun.

One thing that fear does really well is anchor us in the present.

Everything feels more intense and urgent; we're on alert. Like going on a roller-coaster, chasing an adrenaline rush can be a lot of fun. After all, when your heart is thumping and you're breathing hard, it certainly can feel like you are somewhat more alive than usual.

Some of us like scary films because they make us feel intense physical reactions—without any real threat coming for us. It's a win-win: there is no real danger involved, so we can simply enjoy the emotions.

We hate to scare ourselves when things get too realistic

Enjoy the emotions, huh? Sweaty palms, heart racing and a heightened sense of urgency... that sounds a lot like anxiety to me. 👿 Yet I don't know about you, but I've never particularly enjoyed feeling anxious or stressed. How come the same feelings can be so fun one day, and so awful the next?

Here's the thing: people are extremely skilled at scaring themselves with thought. We have lots of options:

• Replaying memories with an insecure filter on ("did I really say that?"),
• Crafting doom scenarios for the future,
• Projecting emotions on other people,
• Ruminating on past decisions,
• Making up disagreements,
• Over-analysing events...

We do these things so often that it's as if we did them for fun.

Except it doesn't feel fun. It's terrifying, we get stuck, we get sad, we worry, we lose focus on reality, we ghost people, we say things we don't mean, we turn down opportunities, we pick fights. Anxious thinking => real consequences.

So the difference between scaring yourself with fiction and scaring yourself with thinking is that one is fake, and the other is real... right? (Wrong.)

Scary films and scary thoughts are the same thing

Read this one carefully, because it is very important.

While we are well aware that scary films are made up, we don't acknowledge that our thinking is made up, too.

Of course horror films are works of fiction! That's the fun of it: grab your popcorn and try not to look at the screen when the murderer finally catches the girl. All the while you're in your seat, under a blanket, at your house or surrounded by friends.

But scary thoughts? They feel pretty real.

In fact, they're about your real life, they involve real people, and your doom scenarios have the look and feel of reality as YOU know it. That's spookier than anything.

We're capable of spending so much time on these scenarios, as if paying attention to them were the only way to prevent them from happening.

Anxious thinking feels so serious and important because it feels as if it were helpful information for the future.


Has worrying about something ever helped you avoid or fix it?

Worried thinking may feel urgent, like you need to take action now.

In reality, scary thoughts are just as fictitious as your favourite creepy film. The cast is people you know, and you have already scouted the location of your fantasy to make it exxxxtra spooky. 👻 But really, aren't you sitting on your couch, taking a shower or snuggled up in bed? Your thoughts can't catch you there. They can't catch you anywhere.

If anything, your level of worry tells you how unclear your thinking is. And when you're not thinking clearly, there is really no point in taking your thoughts too seriously, is there?

Anxious thinking is actually very funny 💀(if you give it a try)

What if we were able to see our doom thinking as entertaining?

What if we could take a look at our scary thoughts and say, ha! Good one, mind. That's a very creative scenario you've made up there. I applaud the effort but I'll get on with reality, now. It can be fun to approach our scary thoughts like a scary film. Entertaining, ridiculous, wildly imaginative...

This Halloween season, I dare you to look at your scary thoughts under a different light.

Will you have the guts to do it? 😨

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This story was written by

Marianne Lalande
Marianne Lalande

Marianne is in charge of all things content at More Resilience. As a digital native, she loves bringing online culture into her work to show that technology and wellness really do go well together.

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