It’s almost Halloween, and Utah has more than its share of scares, such as our many world-class haunted attractions. Or maybe you prefer the real thing. It’s also the time of year when a new crop of horror movies get released. Scaring yourself in one of these ways could actually be good for you!
People like to be scared. After all, a good scare can have many health benefits. Fear alerts us to danger by releasing doses of cortisol and adrenaline to the brain, enabling the ‘fight or flight’ response — a built-in survival instinct that can make us stronger and more capable of confronting a threat … or running from it.
While no one wants to live in a constant state of fear, it is the most primal form of self-preservation. Fear keeps us from doing dangerous or stupid things like running across the freeway during rush hour, or standing too close to the edge of a cliff.
Taking risks is one of the greatest benefits of fear. Embarking on a new adventure, for example, can trigger an exhilarating dose of spine-tingling fear that provides a natural high and a sense of empowerment. Healthy fear produces dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin, helping your brain work more efficiently. In other words, fear can give you energy and incentive.
But fear can also be incapacitating. People with severe phobias can be so afraid that they cease to function normally, leading them to a state of inert helplessness. Or, a phobia can be so debilitating that people may avoid activities they would otherwise enjoy. For example, a person with a fear of snakes (ophidiophobia) may want to go hiking, but they can’t get past the irrational fear that they might see a snake on the trail. Or they may be so afraid to fly (aerophobia) that they never take that dream vacation to Hawaii. This type of fear can suck the joy out of living.
Human beings have an innate desire to be afraid as long as it’s in a situation where we are in control. This explains the popularity of horror movies and Halloween haunted houses. We go to these places because we want to be scared, knowing deep down that nothing there can actually harm us. The killer is an actor, the chainsaw has plastic teeth, and we can leave whenever we want.
Fear is our friend because it prompts us to identify choices and options, analyze them and evaluate the best course of action. It can be the framework we need to climb out of the pit of our fears and take chances, thereby eliminating the ‘analysis of paralysis’ that can keep us forever fearful or cause us to take wrong actions.
Are you ready to be scared in a good way? Turn down the lights and pour a glass of your favorite spirits, such as one of Bianca Dumas’ picks for a delicious seasonal cider. Or imbibe in the distilled spirits that are conjured up by Utah’s three whiskey distillers in Heather L. King’s The Three Faces of Utah Whiskey.
Comfortable? Good. Now sit back and scare yourself with these ethereal, not-of-this-world spirits:
Amanda Rock questions whether the famed Purple Lady that allegedly haunts the Rio Grande depot is real or just a ploy to lure visitors. What do you think?
Folklorist Danny Stewart introduces us to a snowy ghost boy (or was he just a pile of snow?) and takes us on a stroll with the Grim Reaper as he escorts a woman to the afterlife. Now that’s some scary stuff!
Do you have a fear that keeps you from fully enjoying life? Let it go! Watch that scary movie. Go to that haunted house. Hold a séance. Dress up as a knife-wielding maniac for Halloween. Go hiking! Fly to Hawaii! Live life on your terms!
Life’s too short to be lived in fear. Make fear your friend and never be afraid again.
Featured Image Courtesy of Nightmare on 13th.