Life can be stressful. Not mine, of course, because I generally don’t give a f*#-. But for most people, all those to-dos, responsibilities, and endless requirements of adulting can take their toll. Stress has as much of a negative impact on your health as a poor diet or lack of exercise. But there is a simple method to relieve your stress momentarily. And, to boot, it comes with popcorn, bed rest, or both.
If you really want to give your brain a rest and relieve stress then cuddle up with a good horror novel, horror flix, or anything that scares the hell out of you. Well, anything besides real-life scary stuff like paying bills, raising kids, or worrying about your job.
A good scare will wipe away all of the stresses of those day to day things — at least for a little while. It’s a phenomenon backed by science.
During fearful experiences of the kind found in horror stories, the brain’s executive functions are suspended. This is the part of the brain that controls things like planning, time management, and recalling details.
That list is pretty much everything that causes you stress.
So, during any form of great scary stories the brain shuts down that executive function and provides you with a few hours of relief from your real-world troubles.
And unlike sitting Lotus style and humming for twenty minutes, horror is actually fun. No doubt, stress relief is half the attraction of the mindful meditation craze. Of course, if the good Lord had intended us to be “present,” then He should have re-thought the whole vodka thing.
But I digress.
If you need more evidence that horror is your secret zen weapon against stress then consider those folks exiting a terrifying film. Compare their faces to those of people commuting home at the end of a workday. The former look refreshed, relaxed, even excited. Indeed they demonstrate higher energy levels than those commuters. In fact, the commuters mostly look like they could star in their own ghost story.
Why the difference? The movie-goers got a much-needed break from the brain’s executive functions, and the commuters are deep, deep in those alpha brain waves.
This phenomenon may be the reason that Teens love horror films. Whether real or imagined, no group has a more stressful emotional existence than a teen. Two hours of screaming terror is just the recipe needed to forget the rest of their world.
I believe there might be one more reason for the stress-relieving effects of horror.
In Stoicism, a vital life tenet is to view every event from a big-picture vantage point. That is, what does any single thing or occurrence of hardship mean compared to the totality of our life’s journey?
The answer is mostly “very little.”
Horror stories are always a reminder of what’s really important. When the stakes are life or death the stresses of work, chores, and life’s little inconveniences seem a bit smaller.
After all, compared to running from a zombie horde how impossible is that current to-do list?
So, if you want a little relief that’s way more fun than mindful meditation then try The Devil’s Hour. I promise it will be the best night’s sleep you don’t get!
By Raymond Esposito
Raymond Esposito is an award-winning dark fiction author and Amazon bestseller. His articles and interviews have appeared in a variety of publications including Family Circle and Sanitarium Magazine. He has a degree in Cognitive Psychology and has spent over 28 years as a criminal behaviorist.